Tag Archives: Trust No 1

Plus One 11×3: Put the pencil down.


 

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Clearly, there’s a dark influence set loose.

 

Do you hear that?

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Shhh!!!!

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It’s the sound of Scully’s biological clock ticking.

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If you listen closely, it sounds like woodpeckers pecking at fossilized bones in a remote and cavernous ravine.

*Splash*

That was the sound of Scully fishing for compliments. That silence is me drowning.

It’s hard for me to grade this episode since, on its own merits, the plot is shallow and the atmosphere merely passable. If I’m comparing it to Golden Era X-Files, not only does it not pass muster, character development-wise it doesn’t feel like it belongs. If I compare it to the Revival, well, the Revival has stunk worse. Far worse.

I’ve just got a resigned side smirk going on. That’s all.

Let’s start with the jumpy opening teaser. I miss the days of steady camera shots and discrete cuts. It’s not as noticeable when I watch other shows because I expect them to be “other shows.” But when my brain knows I’m supposed to be watching The X-Files, I instinctively find it more jarring.

But I’m an old fogie and I know it, and it’s not too hard to let all that slide, especially when we get some long-awaited, pre-case office banter.  Writer Chris Carter’s reputation suffers many things and by his own hand. But he always was pretty good at writing office banter between Mulder and Scully. My patience has finally been rewarded here (not that it compensates for the many injuries said patience has suffered).

There were several classic elements in this episode – Mulder and Scully’s verbal back-and-forth, them walking down hospital hallways listening to medical explanations for unexplained phenomena, the music (I see you getting back in the game, Mark Snow.) I also thought the scene where Mulder and Scully interviewed Arkie in the jail, while not quite hitting a home run, came close to the old atmosphere I crave. And moments in this episode reminded me of “Sleepless” (2×4), with strange, not-quite-there visions haunting folks into an early death. That wasn’t a stupendous episode either, but it did bring us Krycek…

I wish I could spend more time discussing the plot with you, Philes. But it’s basic and relatively stupid. Twins play a game of Psychic Hangman that results in someone they hate self-destructing at the hands of their own doppelganger. Said twins eventually self-destruct after their children play their own game of Psychic Hangman. And there’s a whole lot of forced UST between Mulder and Scully. The End.

Now, about that UST, we can’t ride the gravy train in reverse. I know Carter wishes he could have Mulder and Scully’s Season 3 relationship back, but it’s not happening. Or, I should say, it’s not happening well.

What the heck was that ridiculous conversation in bed about? Ridiculousness??

Underneath that hollow sound of the woodpeckers, you can also hear the sound of me smothering myself with my own pillow.

Try to follow the logic: In the 16 years since the reunion of Mulder and Scully and the end of The X-Files, Scully wanted to have a baby and would have tried except that she didn’t have a partner and she believed (as did we all) that she was barren and her first child was a miracle. Also, this desire of hers was a surprise to Mulder. This would mean that A) A woman who believed she was barren was on birth control that whole time. Otherwise, they would have at least been open to another child by default, which would render this conversation meaningless since that would mean both of them knew she was definitely barren since she never got pregnant, and barren after “Per Manum” (8×8) established that she had already had her last chance at IVF. Ergo, Scully must have been using birth control in order for pregnancy to have been an unexplored possibility by both of them. B) Mulder wasn’t her partner up until recently.

Wait. Wait. She would’ve liked to have had another child, but claims the problem is she doesn’t have a partner. Well, up until Chris Carter mysteriously and blasphemously broke you two up last season, you had a partner. You have had a partner for years. For years, yo.

Right up until the end. You almost made it, Chris Carter. Right up until the end, this episode’s biggest crime was that it mostly bored me. Now it offends me. Scully pouts her way back into Mulder’s arms because she’s insecure about aging? Because we all know she’s steps away from being a washed out old hag. And to add insult to injury, Carter manufactures this lame excuse for a cathartic conversation between our two leads that doesn’t even make sense. Yes, my heart hurt listening to it, but not with nostalgia. We were frightfully close to “Trust No 1” (9×8) territory. Remember when Chris Carter intimated that Scully first slept with Mulder because of loneliness and desperation. No? Well, you’re welcome.

Verdict:

Maybe I’m just thick, but I can’t understand why it’s so difficult to just let them love each other naturally in the background.

“Put a dimmer on that afterglow.” – I gagged. Really.

And if Scully is going to have a midlife crisis, Chris Carter should not be the one to write about it. Only he could make it as simplistic as: “I can’t have babies anymore and men want women who can make babies so I guess I’m going to die alone.”

I love you, Chris. You just don’t know it. But you see this?

“You tappin’ that, Special Agent? Or can Chucky bust a move?”

This right here? This should never have happened.

C

Scoot in My Boot:

So wait, wait. They aren’t back together again? And the last episode meant… what? I’m so done, Chris Carter. I am so done.

More Scully/Silence of the Lambs parallels. Only she’s having poop-poop-pee-doop tossed at her instead of, well, you know.

Praise be. Scully looks more like herself again this episode. At least she was spared an insult in the aesthetics department.

I don’t mind Chris Carter indulging his doppelganger/twin obsession (See: “Fight Club” (7×20) and the boredom that is Miller and Einstein), I just wish he’d do it well.

Opening car crash = echoes of “Fresh Bones” (2×15) and even “Salvage” (8×10).

I appreciated the shoutout to The Patty Duke Show.

Catholic Scully doesn’t believe in evil anymore? At least CC had the grace to recognize this didn’t seem in keeping with her previous characterization. She believed in evil even when Mulder didn’t.

The quick, out of the blue resolution reminds me of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2x), but without the genuine creepiness that made that episode memorable.

Did you recognize Karen Konoval? No? Well, it’d be hard to see her underneath all that makeup as Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3) and hard to recognize her looking mostly normal as Madame Zelma in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

Best Quotes:

Scully: But if you eliminate the impossible, whatever is remaining, even if improbable, must be the truth.

Mulder: No sugar, Sherlock.

* This is really just a little cross-fandom love.

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Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


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Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

Providence 9×11: You don’t need to put yourself through this.


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Whew. I’m so relieved to be able to say I like this more than “Provenance” (9×10).

When we last spoke, The X-Files had bitten off more than it could chew in the storytelling department. Does “Providence” aid in digestion? Well, let’s sum up the mythology as stands as of the end of this episode, shall we?

Once upon a time, there was a man with the improbable name of Josepho. Josepho fought in the Gulf War and led a squad of soldiers on a failed mission. All of his men died. Josepho himself was about to die, when he saw men, like angels, throw themselves into what should have been certain death and survive. On that day, Josepho realized that he’d been given a vision, a vision of otherworldly beings come to deliver mankind. And you know he had a vision because he cried blood. Yes.

Josepho took his message to the people and started his own UFO cult. The cult worshipped the aliens as gods who would eventually return to earth to save humankind. Josepho himself heard from “God” on the regular.

Then one day, Josepho learned of a prophecy, either from “God” directly or he read it on one of the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft. The prophecy was similar to the Navajo one alluded to by Albert Hosteen in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×2), because as you know, Native Americans are automatically closer to “God” than the white man and with indigenous peoples lie the secrets of life.

Albert Hosteen: I was hoping to see your partner.
Scully: He’s missing.
Albert Hosteen: You must save him.
Scully: He’s very ill.
Albert Hosteen: You must find him before something happens not only for his sake, for the sake of us all.

Scully: [Regarding Native American Beliefs and Practices, Chapter 3 – “The Anasazi – An Entire Native American Indian Culture Vanishes Without a Trace – History as Myth and end of the world symbolism. Apocalypse and The Sixth Extinction.”] It’s all here, sir. A foretelling of mass extinction, a myth about a man who can save us from it. That’s why they took Mulder. They think that his illness is a gift, protection against the coming plague.

The prophecy said that there would be a messiah. (FYI: Mulder wasn’t it.) It also said, apparently, that the messiah would bear a strong resemblance to Darth Vader because he could play on either side of the force. If the messiah and his human father lived, the messiah would lead humanity against colonization. If the messiah lived and his father died, he would lead the Super Soldiers in the colonization charge. Ergo, from the point of view of the UFO cult and the Super Soldiers who both want colonization, the father had to die so that the messiah could lead them. Or, if the father remained alive, then the messiah would have to be killed so as to kill the resistance.

And so, Josepho and his people made it their business to try to kill Fox Mulder because, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, William is the “Jesus” of our little Space Soap Opera. The F.B.I. found out about these threats against a former one of their own and sent Agent Comer in undercover to find out what the cult was up to and stop them. Comer heard about the prophecy and witnessed enough to believe it. He also heard that Fox Mulder was dead.

Then, like any sane human being who wants to prevent the end of the world, he made it his personal mission to kill William. After all, if Mulder is dead and William lives then colonization will most certainly take place. However, Comer didn’t count on Scully who went all Psycho Mama Bear on Comer, put brotherman in the hospital, and saved her baby.

If you’re keeping track, this now means humankind is in danger since Mulder is dead and William is alive.

Scully only temporarily saved her baby, however, as he’s then kidnapped by Overcoat Woman. The inventively named Overcoat Woman brought him back to the UFO cult and they just held him and stuff.

Again, if you’re keeping track, she didn’t kill him because they believed Mulder had already been killed and they wanted William alive to lead colonization.

Josepho, who I now pronounce the villain of our tale, called Scully and dangled William’s life in front of her. He and Scully met and he revealed that Mulder was likely still alive, but he wanted Scully to rectify that.

Josepho: If you want to see the boy, you’ll bring me the head of Fox Mulder.
{Editor’s Note: Snort.}

Scully had no intention of doing that so she and Reyes secretly, and rather easily, followed Josepho back to his lair. They arrived right as the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft Josepho had been trying to open activated at William’s cry. Unfortunately for Josepho, the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft liked William but didn’t feel the same about his new friends. “God” killed the cult, left William alive for Scully to find, and flew off into the night.

Is that all vaguely clear? Is the mythology coming together for you?

Now let this sink in: You can disregard almost everything you learned in “Essence” (8×20) and “Existence” (8×21). The Super Soldiers never wanted to kill Baby “Jesus” William. Quite the contrary, they wanted to protect him. Oh, and you can likely discount “Nothing Important Happened Today” (9×1), “Nothing Important Happened Today II” (9×2) and “Trust No 1” (9×8) because while there may be many Super Soldier babies, there is only one messiah. William’s conception was different than the others.

Mulder: [Voiceover] How did this child come to be? What set its heart beating? Is it the product of a union? Or the work of a divine hand? An answered prayer? A true miracle? Or is it a wonder of technology, the intervention of other hands? – “Essence”

Scully: I need to know if it’s really God I have to thank. – “Provenance”

Skinner: [To Krycek] You wanted to destroy her child.
Krycek: I wanted to destroy the truth before they learn the truth.
Mulder: That there’s a God… a higher power. – “Essence”

This plot is crazy, so let’s have a rundown, shall we?

Where did William come from?

Mulder and Scully had sex. And God.

So basically he’s just like everyone else?

Yes. Only with superpowers.

Why did God create William?

Probably because God loves humanity and these aliens attempting colonization are messing with His children. He gave mankind William to save them.

I thought Scully was infertile?

She was. But God gave her back her fertility because… William. Quite likely, the contact she made with the spaceship in “Biogenesis” (6×22) brought her womb back to life. Those ships bring everything else back to life, so why not?

The spaceship made her pregnant?

Sorta kinda. It’s like the virgin birth only it’s nothing like the virgin birth.

And that’s why William has superpowers?

It was an alien influence, yes.

I thought the spaceship belonged to the colonists?

At this point, not much is clear. At no point will it be.

Why did Krycek want to kill William?

Because Mulder was dead/dying in “Deadalive” (8×15) and he wanted to kill William so that he wouldn’t live to usher in colonization.

Then what was Krycek up to in “Essence”?

He really wanted William to live now that Mulder was okay. He was likely telling Mulder the truth, for once. He was on the side of the resistance and was double crossing the Super Soldiers by leading them away from William.

Then what was Krycek up to in “Existence”?

He had likely switched sides yet again, had given up on keeping William safe and had joined up with the Super Soldiers. That’s the only reason he’d be willing to kill Mulder with William still alive out there somewhere.

So the Super Soldiers didn’t kill William at the end of “Existence” because…

Because they want him to lead them.

So then, the Super Soldiers didn’t kill Mulder at the end of “Existence” because…

I don’t know. You got me.

Whew! Okay. There you have it, folks. The “Provenance” of William is that “God” healed Scully and allowed her to conceive for the purposes of “Providence.” He’s living proof that God is at work. It only took nearly three years to make any sense out of what I saw as far back as “Biogenesis.” Strike that, it took me seventeen years. But I was really paying attention this time.

Dear X-Files, I love you. But let’s leave the Space Saga to Star Wars, shall we?

Verdict:

“The Truth” was out there, but it’s been buried under cryptic revelations and misleads for so long that, quite frankly, I care one minced oath less than Rhett Butler.

Even if I did care, the whole thing is hard to believe even within the context of the series. William as the new son of God? Does that seem like too much to you? It is. It’s too much. Mulder and Scully were just a guy and a gal solving cases, fighting spooks and beasties, and searching for the truth in life. Now Mulder and his miracle son are the subject of ancient prophecy and destined to change the fate of the cosmos.

One thing I must say, Chris Carter is often accused of having made it up as he went along, but I finally see in this episode that he was planning for the eventuality of these developments as far back as the end of Season 6. There is a plan here. But it’s much harder to follow than the mythology of the early years and even harder to swallow. It’s too crazy, too grand, too epic and too mythic.

Still, it was a crazy, grand, epic, mythic ride while it lasted.

B-

Thoughts:

Who *is* speaking to Josepho?

Where does this cult get the money or the technology for these digs? How did they find what the rest of the world hasn’t? Through whoever or whatever is speaking to Josepho?

The verse Josepho quotes is not from Ephesians, it’s from Ezekiel. We know Scully went to Sunday School so I’m not sure how she got that pop quiz wrong. I realize both books share an “E” but they’re otherwise separated by about three hundred pages and five hundred years. All that effort to find a relatively unknown Bible verse to suit the story and no one checked the reference?

All three of the Lone Gunmen wouldn’t ID the suspect in the same place at the same time.

If they had a tracker on the baby why didn’t Scully try that immediately?

I’m not buying Scully as Jack Bauer. A few seasons ago she was much more believable when she threatened somebody.

If Scully was given her fertility back in “Amor Fati” then the doctors’ reports were most certainly wrong in “Per Manum” (8×8) OR the events of that episode took place before “Amor Fati” in Season 6, which would certainly make more sense in terms of where Mulder and Scully appear to be in their relationship. Raspychick even suggested that in the comments for “Per Manum”.

Scully runs in the darkness yelling for William as she approaches the cult’s base. Shhh, woman! They’ll know you’re coming!

And it’s official: Reyes is a sidekick.

Doggett’s experience in the hospital also underscores the message that there’s a God, Providence, working behind all of this.

Josepho worships the aliens as God, but you see where that left him. Fried, died and laid to the side.

So Toothpick Man, the new Cigarette-Smoking Man, is an alien replicant/Super Soldier. That reveal isn’t as shocking or interesting as it should be.

When did God come to Jesus on a mountain top? I know Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness…

John Doe 9×7: I’ll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.


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Every time I try to walk away…

Here’s the thing about “John Doe”. It’s a beautifully crafted hour of television. Writer Vince Gilligan and his soon to be collaborator on Breaking Bad, first time director Michelle MacLaren, present us with an episode that looks like it’s ready for the big screen. Robert Patrick outdoes himself now that Doggett is finally given something interesting to do again, and he’s flanked by a motley crew of impressively convincing supporting actors.

The thing is, I’m incurably bored by “John Doe” and like the Eagles said, I can’t tell you why.

Is it the slow pace? Is it the token nature of the supernatural element slipped perfunctorily in at the end of the episode? Is it the atmosphere of heat and exhaustion?

Whatever it is, it puzzles me. But try though I might, by the ten minute mark I always tune out. I can never watch this episode in a single sitting. I get distracted and then rewind, distracted and then rewind. It’s a sad cycle.

It’s sad because there’s a lot of good going on here. First of all, as only the second time a woman has directed an episode of The X-Files since Gillian Anderson’s “all things” (7×17), it’s somewhat historic. Visually, it’s also an obvious homage to the film Traffic with all of its washed out outdoor scenes.

Speaking of film, I’ve always thought Vince Gilligan’s work on the show had a cinematic edge. That is to say, his X-Files often came across as stories that could easily be adapted for the big screen. His episodes are uniquely suited to Mulder and Scully, made more impactful by Mulder and Scully, but quite a few of them could be reworked without Mulder and Scully and still stand as independent stories. For example, “Unruhe” (4×2), “Pusher” (3×17), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Drive” (6×2), “Roadrunners” (8×5), etc.

“John Doe” feels even more like a mini movie, especially since unlike the days when the X-Files were run by Mulder and Scully, there’s no need to follow the show’s standard storytelling format. There’s nothing perfunctory about it like, say, a Scully autopsy. This isn’t familiar. And not only does our lead not know who he himself is, neither do we, really. We’re still getting to know John Doggett.

It is nice to see more of Doggett, to see more of his relationship with his son. Now we know he also had a wife. Whatever happened to Mrs. Doggett I wonder? I assume that one day she woke up and got out of their marital bed. I’m also assuming we’ll find out before the season wraps up, along with more of the details of Luke Doggett’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, more than anything, we learn a lot about Doggett’s character. Even without his memory and without his bearings, he keeps his integrity… and his skillset. And he’s not afraid of pain, not even the pain of the loss of his son, because he knows that his experiences have shaped him and he can’t lose that pain without losing himself.

All that sounds great, doesn’t it? They’re still doing new and different things on The X-Files, aren’t they? So what’s wrong with me, then?

I’m starting to think these kinds of amnesia tales just don’t interest me, personally. I LOVE “Demons” (4×23), in which Mulder has a limited amnesia. But when someone forgets how they wound up in hell and the audience watches them find out, that’s an interesting mystery. When someone forgets who they are and the audience already knows who they are, that’s not as much of a mystery. That’s a character study. We’re watching John Doggett remember John Doggett.

How he even came to be in no man’s land Mexico, while supposedly the big reveal of the story, is almost irrelevant to the story. The villains are obvious early on. The only question is how they did it, and even the how is given only brief screen treatment. A memory vampire? Really? It’s probably better that they didn’t spend too long dwelling on that, now that I think of it.

No, this is all just a showcase for Doggett the man. And maybe, Doggett, she’s just not that into you.

Verdict:

There’s no real X-File here. It could have been a memory vampire. It could have been a mugger who knocked him down so that he hit his head. The result is the same.

Then again, I think this recent crop of episodes is proving that Doggett and Reyes aren’t that suited to traditional X-Files. They needed something new built around them.

And it’s for that reason that I respect “John Doe” even if my attention span refuses to bend to my will. We needed episodes that sought to differentiate Doggett and Reyes from Mulder and Scully and create a unique bond between them and the audience. The X-Files needed to feel different in their hands.

So here’s what I learned about our new leads this episode –

They’re both more worldly than either Mulder or Scully were.
They’re both ready for a firefight.
They’re both built Ford tough.

The end.

I think Reyes is due for her own character episode now, isn’t she?

B+

Factoids:

It was after this episode aired that Chris Carter announced this would be the final season of The X-Files.

He should have done that after “Trust No 1” (9x).

Michelle MacLaren would go on to direct for both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead among many other shows. Go ‘head, girl.

Mrs. Doggett is played by the real life Mrs. Patrick. Aww.

According to Wikipedia, Mulder’s old apartment set was dressed up and reused as the Mexican hotel set. Symbolic?

Scully is completely useless here. Yes, that counts as a fact.

The actor who plays Domingo, Frank Roman, does an incredible job. Also a fact.

Just One Question:

Why was Doggett investigating without Reyes in the first place?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Y acerca de las drogas? Están en su inventario también? Usted ya sabe… cocaina, AGCO, John Deere?
Molina’s Lawyer: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
Molina: She says I sell drugs.
Molina’s Lawyer: Please don’t speak Spanish anymore.

———————–

Caballero: Why would you want to remember? You can’t tell me you’re happier now, because you recall your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle, so long, and hard to get that pain back?
Doggett: Because it’s mine.

Guest Post – X-Files: A Shipper Guide, Part 4


*Editor’s Note: Nina is a long time X-Phile and shipper extraordinaire. (Seriously. You guys thought I was rabid.) You can find more of her humorous insights into The X-Files, Supernatural, 24 and other fandoms on her tumblr at myspecialhell.tumblr.com. Here’s part 4 of her rundown on Mulder and Scully’s relationship in Season 1. You can check out parts 1, 2 and 3 herehere and here. Agree/disagree with her observations? Duke it out in the comments section. We can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

And with that, take it away, Nina!

Biased, completely personal, with tongue firmly planted in cheek

Chapter two

How things change

Aka The second half of the first season

Beyond the Sea is the episode which made me realize that there was Scully, that she wasn’t just Mulder’s sidekick and his love interest. It was one of the episodes that defined Scully as a character on her own. Beyond the Sea is a wonderful episode, one of the favorite among the Philes, both for the casefile which was brilliant and for the characters. For the first time we saw a reversal of their roles: Scully in this episode was the somewhat reluctant believer and Mulder was the skeptic.

There were reasons behind this twist, which I wish they had kept in latter seasons when Scully point blank became a believer and Mulder turned skeptic.

With the death of Scully’s father, just after Christmas  – and I got to say this: guys what’s the what with Scully and Christmas? I mean, in the first season she loses her father and in the fifth season there’s the whole Emily thing…

For the first time we saw Mulder letting  go of the professionalism and the distance he had put between Scully and he, when he called her by her first name.

We Philes learned very soon that they would never going to call each other by first names, Mulder did it from time to time, and we knew that he didn’t want Scully to call him Fox. To this day I still don’t know why…I mean, ok, his name sucks, but why he didn’t let her call him Fox ?

Even in the train wreck the last season has been, in the fan-fiction episode (trust no one), while she was physically shaking while reading his e-mail she still called him Mulder. She was forever his, but she still called him Mulder. (one could argue that in the last season the writers didn’t even remember Mulder’s first name, but that’s beside the point!)

I have a theory  – I always have theories concerning the X-Files, this doesn’t come as a surprise. –  which I’ll illustrate later in the essay.

Anyway, back to the episode, Mulder called Scully: “Dana” and gently touched her face, which I’m sure is a gesture every FBI agent is trained to do to comfort a grieving peer (insert my snort in here)

Mulder was ready to face a demon from his past, from the days at VICAP: Luther Lee Boggs, terrifically played by Academy Award nominee, Emmy™ nominee Brad Dourif . Boggs was a serial killer Mulder had profiled and sent to jail, where he was waiting for his execution.

It has to be said that Mulder didn’t want Scully to follow that case so soon after her father’s death, but she claimed she needed to work, she needed to focus her mind elsewhere. We have here a first glimpse at Scully’s way of coping with tragedy and things she can’t accept: she doesn’t; she runs away, she goes in full denial.

Throughout the episode Mulder was very concerned about Scully, he was very protective of her. And that was the first time we actually saw a side of Mulder which was going to become prominent from second season on: namely, how Mulder wanted to protect Scully.

And how Scully deeply cared about Mulder.

Scully was surprised by Mulder in this episode. She saw a side of him she had rarely seen since they had been working together: she saw Mulder as the f***ing brilliant interrogator, the f***ing  VICAP/VCS/BSU’s golden boy. She had glimpsed that side of him during the interrogation scene in Conduit  – which, to this day, is still one of my favorites – but in Beyond the Sea she saw that in glorious Technicolor when he interrogated Boggs.

Beyond the Sea dealt a lot with mortality, with frailty…with beliefs and regrets. Scully who had just lost her father, came close to lose Mulder when he was shot. It was the first time in their partnership one of them was really injured, and its effect was devastating on Scully.

The scene where the ER doctors treated Mulder was heartbreaking to watch: Scully was so distraught over what was happening that she couldn’t even move, she couldn’t even get closer to Mulder. The noises around her faded, and the only thing she could do was to close her eyes.

That scene was another glimpse at how Scully reacts to loss: she implodes for a moment.

I’m not a Scullyist, in case you didn’t notice I’m a Mulderist all the way, yet never have I liked Scully more as in the scene where she went to Boggs ..

You set us up. You’re in on this with Lucas Henry. This was a trap for Mulder because he helped put you away. Well, I came here to tell you that if he dies because of what you’ve done, four days from now, no one will be able to stop me from being the one that will throw the switch and gas you out of this life for good, you son of a b****!

I love this scene…love it with a passion! In the script of the episode there is one difference in the scene which, in my opinion spoke volume of Scully’s feelings for Mulder :

I came here to tell you that if I lose him too because of what you’ve done […]

Too bad the scene wasn’t kept this way.

Scully had a complete faith in Mulder’s  nature. She might tell Mulder that he was crazy, she might get frustrated, but she knew, that when all was said and done, Mulder was a decent, honest, good man. Just like his father…

It is a cold, dark place, Scully. Mulder’s looking in on it right now.

SCULLY: It may be a cold dark place for you but it’s not for Mulder and it’s not for my father.

There is something I want to discuss about Morgan and Wong’s episodes. They seemed to think that Scully saw some kind of a father figure in Mulder. They subtly suggested it in this episode and said it aloud in Never Again.

Wrong. On so many levels.

Morgan and Wong were two very gifted writers, they wrote One Breath which is one of my favorite episodes of the whole series, right in the top five, but they weren’t in favor of a Mulder and Scully’s relationship…and it shows!

Scully didn’t see Mulder as a father figure, an authority figure…besides, can you imagine two people more different than Scully’s father and Mulder? C’mon!

Morgan and Wong did a terrific job with this episode, which was a step up in Mulder and Scully’s relationship. In the end, Scully decided not to hear Boggs and the message her father had for her. She chose to sit at Mulder’s bedside.

As I said, in the second half of the first season we saw a shift in Mulder and Scully’s relationship…we saw how Mulder became more and more protective of Scully and how Scully kept Mulder grounded.

So much for Jerk!Mulder! uh?

Gender Bender and Lazarus showed how Mulder’s behavior toward Scully had changed.

On a purely shallow level: I love the way Mulder held Scully at him in Gender Bender after he rescued her from Father Andrew pheromone’s filled paws. He gently closed her shirt, and held her at him.

It was the first time they were so close physically; granted they had examined each other, they walked as if they were glued, he had brushed her cheeks and touched her forearm, but they had never been that close.

I’ve always thought that at the beginning of their partnership they needed to have that kind of distance, not to touch each other. In the pilot episode Mulder saw Scully in her underwear and gently touched the small of her back – which, incidentally, or maybe not, is the spot he always touches – she had touched his neck and shoulders, but they didn’t touch each other…and I think they needed to.

One can poke as many holes in my theory that they have fallen for each other at  first sight, and by all means: knock yourself out! It’s undeniable, though, that the chemistry they had was unmistakable, it was so thick that you had to cut it with a chainsaw!

So when I saw Mulder holding Scully at him, I was overjoyed. I might even have flailed a little. But hey, the first time I saw the scene I was 18, can you blame me?

There is a thing I need to say: I’m writing this essay relying on my memory. I have seen each episode of the X-Files at least three times (and I’m talking about those I didn’t like: *cough*Teso dos Bichos*cough*), but for the most part, I have seen them hundreds of time. I’ve distanced myself from the show, but I have still an excellent memory for the episodes.

I may not remember the specifics of the plots but as far as character’s development and relationship’s development I *do* remember it.

Mulder’s reaction to what had happened in that house cracks me up:

I know what I saw, Scully…and I know that I saw you about to do the wild thing with a stranger…

Wild thing? Who in the hell says wild thing? Sex. Its name is S-E-X!

That said…I have noticed that although there is any kind of innuendo between Mulder and Scully the word sex is rarely mentioned. And something else: did you notice that Mulder never picked up cases which involved S-E-X ? Or sexual abuses for that matter…or anything of remotely sexual nature? I can think of very few episodes: Excelsis Dei, Small Potatoes…and about Excelsis Dei…Scully picked up the case, Mulder was very reluctant about it.

I think that is just one of the signs of Mulder’s respect for Scully.

Since we had had a former lover of Mulder’s, Lazarus showed us a former lover of Scully’s.

Jack Willis. I know I may sound like a rabid shipper…but Jack Willis? He crept me out! How could Scully have fallen for him? I said that Morgan & Wong subtly suggested that Scully saw in Mulder an authority figure she could relate to, a father figure…

Maybe, just maybe, with Mulder, Scully broke the cycle instead. We know of two relationships of Scully – three if you count Minette, four if you take seriously the whole Ed Jerse’s fiasco, five if you count Padgett, which I don’t –

From what we have gathered of Scully’s past relationships, she had indeed unconsciously looked for a father figure, a strong male figure in her life. Both Jack Willis and the guy from All Things were older than her, they were patronizing and they didn’t treat her as an equal. They were indeed authority figures: Jack was one of Scully’s instructors at Quantico, while the guy from All Things was her professor.

As I said, Scully broke the cycle with Mulder.

Mulder was just three years older than her, he might have been the supervisor of the X-Files, an older agent, but as I have previously said, he didn’t care about hierarchy. He treated her as an equal.

He did feel the need to protect her, but without smothering her, without being patronizing and condescending; Mulder felt the need to protect Scully not because he didn’t trust her ability to take care of herself, but because he cared about her. He didn’t want her to be any different from what she was. He valued her for what she was, not for what he wanted her to be.

There was an equal level of trust, need, care. Although there have been times, especially in latter seasons where I have doubted of Scully’s feelings for Mulder (it’s a long and boring story, which, I will tell later, when it comes to the hell also known as the sixth season ) I never doubted this axiom: that they were equal.

Remember?

“You were my constant, my touchstone”

And you are mine

(Amor fati)

And:

“I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you”

(Tooms)

And:

I feel, Scully… that you believe… you’re not ready to go. And you’ve always had the strength of your beliefs. I don’t know if my being here… will help bring you back. But I’m here.

I had the strength of your beliefs.

(One Breath)

Besides, on a totally shallow level: no offence to the guys who played Scully’s past lovers …but David Duchovny is hot!

It looked like Scully and Jack Willis were still friends, unlike Mulder and Phoebe they had parted on good terms, so much that she went helping him with a robbery case, and of course being the X-Files, things went to hell in a hand basket.

Jack Willis was shot and Scully supervised the ER treatment. I have thought about it a lot, especially considering the similarity to what had happened in Beyond the Sea…and what was going to happen in End Game.

I believe Scully supervised Jack Willis’ treatment on the ER because what had happened didn’t have the same resonance the events of Beyond the Sea had. Scully cared about Jack but she didn’t lose it when he was shot…whereas in End Game she revived Mulder’s heart herself…because she was the only one who could help him.

Mulder was suspicious of Jack Willis even before knowing about the man’s past with Scully. I didn’t see jealousy in him, Mulder has never struck me as the jealous type, except in Bad Blood and Milagro and even then he was surprised more than anything.

I think Mulder learned how to control jealousy with Phoebe. One might argue he was jealous of Doggett in the eighth season, but I don’t think so…he wasn’t jealous of Scully…he was pissed off because he felt like he didn’t fit in any more…and because Doggett had the X-Files.

Did this mean that he didn’t love Scully if he wasn’t jealous or didn’t show it? I really don’t think so. But I will write more about jealousy later.

When Scully revealed that she had dated Jack Willis the case became more personal…to both of them, especially when Scully was kidnapped.

When he realized Willis/Dupré had kidnapped her, he couldn’t help calling her Dana once he heard her voice. It was like, for a moment, he totally forgot about their being partners at the FBI. Mulder the man spoke…and tried to reach her.

We saw Mulder fighting to save Scully in this episode, we saw him being a real G-Man while Scully experienced an X-File first hand. We saw as Mulder realized the importance of Scully in his life. He was the one who solved the case, who spoke with the kidnappers.

I don’t know about FBI rules and protocols, but every time we have seen Mulder treating a hostage situation during the series (Duane Barry, Folie a Deux, Monday) he has always been perfect, totally by the book. Yet, I highly doubt this exchange could be considered part of the rules:

MULDER: (on phone, threatening) You listen to me —- you lay one hand on Scully, and so help me, God ——

It is to be considered that the phone conversation between Mulder and Lula was being recorded. Yet, Mulder didn’t seem to care, so much, that when they got Scully’s whereabouts and planned the operation he concluded saying:

MULDER: And for those of you —-who don’t know already (voice unsteady) this one’s important to me. So, uh, let’s do it right. Thanks.

It’s interesting to note a few things about the episode: originally it had to be Mulder who swapped souls with Warren Dupré, the network decided otherwise, but there were still traces of the original concept in the episode.

Jack Willis was no Mulder, but he was some kind of a profiler, he worked at VCS, and was obsessed with the case. I think, though, that the similarities were just on surface. As I said Jack was no Mulder, and his relationship with Scully was way different.

The ending of the episode offered an insight on Mulder that, in my opinion, deserves to be addressed. Remember the pilot episode? Mulder said he wanted the truth, he said that nothing else mattered to him. Nothing had ever stopped Mulder from looking for answers, for the first time, at the end of this episode, Mulder chose Scully over the truth.

SCULLY: What does that mean?

MULDER: It means … It means whatever you want it to mean. (gently) Good night.

Mulder’s honesty…his absolute faith in the truth, has always been one of his most fascinating traits…yet, time and again, Mulder chose Scully over the truth…to protect her, not to cause her pain.

It happened in Lazarus for the first time, but we saw it happening in One Breath…and don’t forget the last episode of the series: Mulder was ready to die in order to deliver Scully from knowing the truth, a truth he was afraid it could crush her spirit. This alone is proof enough of Mulder’s feelings for Scully.

In Lazarus, Mulder gave Scully the chance to believe in what she wanted to believe…the chance to have closure. The chance to grieve without questions.

E.B.E” was another step up in Mulder and Scully’s relationship. On a totally shallow level: Mulder found remotely plausible that Scully was hot.

You kept me honest[1]

I don’t know why, the first time I watched the movie and I heard Mulder saying those lines, the first scene which came to my mind was the one which had taken place in Scully’s kitchen in EBE, when Mulder and Scully butted heads over the false photograph Deep Throat had given Mulder.

There have been other moments before the movie where Scully had kept Mulder honest, but that scene was the first, which my mind conjured. To me, the scene in Scully’s kitchen is pivotal.

I don’t think Mulder had still doubts about Scully’s loyalty to him and the X-Files by the time the events of EBE took place, but if even shreds of them had remained, they would have vanished.

Mulder realized that it didn’t matter whether she believed or not in aliens…she wanted the truth, just like him, and was determined to find it even if it meant fighting him and the trust he had in Deep Throat.

Mulder realized that Scully was ready and willing to put everything on the line for him.

Mulder and Scully’s interaction in EBE is terrific: there is teasing, trust, sexual tension and care. For the first time we saw Scully visiting Mulder’s apartment, we saw how comfortable Mulder looked at Scully’s place.

Among the episodes written by Morgan & Wong during the first season, EBE is probably the best, as far as Mulder and Scully’s relationship is concerned, even more so than Tooms….and its infamous conversation in the car.


[1]              Fight the future

Aubrey 2×12: A woman senses these things.


N.O.W. just revoked my membership.

“Aubrey” is estrogen driven. It’s penned by one of the few female writers to grace the series, Sara B. Charno. The guest lead is Deborah Strang who is so good as B.J. Morrow that Chris Carter put her in for an Emmy. And most importantly, Scully’s observation skills outshine Mulder’s for once. Hurrah for womankind. Manly men may want to turn back now.

OK, I exaggerate. But this episode does take the idea of woman’s intuition and gives it a paranormal spin. Is B.J. just really, really good at subconsciously putting pieces together or rather than intuition, is she herself a victim of instinct? Outside of discussing animal behavior, these two ideas, intuition and instinct, are often blended to where they’re interchangeable. For instance, if I were to say “I have a gut instinct,” many would take that to mean that I’ve taken in some information, processed it, and come to a informed if unprovable conclusion. This episode explores the frightening premise that even our instincts are not our own but that they’re passed down in families along with near-sightedness and crooked teeth.

I’m convinced with this episode that The X-Files is starting to hit its stride. The writers and producers are confident as to what makes an X-File an X-File. The feel of the show is more consistent than Season 1 and the Mulder and Scully dynamic is positively golden. Earlier episodes like “Space” (1×8) couldn’t be saved by Mulder and Scully’s relationship because it didn’t exist as such yet.  Episodes this season have a built-in failsafe in that when all else is lost, watching Mulder and Scully interact is all the audience needs.

Not that “Aubrey” needs a failsafe. Even this early on in the series the episodes are beginning to feel like mini-films. This time around it’s thanks in large part to the stellar direction of Rob Bowman. From the first shot of the teaser the story is told from creative angles. One of his best moments is when he chooses to shoot over Lt. Tillman’s shoulder so that we can both watch Tillman’s face as he eavesdrops and watch the conversation he’s eavesdropping on at the same time. It’s lovely, ironic and darkly hilarious.

The acting is also taking a consistent turn for the better as well. Terry O’Quinn is given a rather two-dimensional role as B.J.’s married lover, but he somehow makes it memorable and gives the character presence and depth. Deborah Strang is also good as the vulnerable, self-doubting B.J.

There’s also an extra mystery in this episode. Scully mentions to B.J. having experience in the inter-office relationship department. Is this an early reference to what we learn about Scully in Season 7’s “all things” (7×17)? I’m not so sure. For one, we already know that Scully has had a relationship with someone at the F.B.I. before. That came out in “Lazarus” (1×14). But more than that, I suspect that Scully isn’t much empathizing with B.J. so much as she’s conducting an investigation. It reminds me of the stunt she pulled in “Shadows” (1×5) when she made Lauren Kyte believe that she believed in ghosts too. Note how Scully reports right back to Mulder with what she discovered. Perhaps it was all an effort to stick it to Mulder and prove that her intuition just checkmated his.

And so…

Overall, I really enjoy this episode but it seems to be among the forgotten and I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s too much horror and not enough science? Regardless, it’s a good example of a classic X-Files episode. In other words, this is one you might show a newbie if you wanted to give them an instant feel for the series.

Mind you, it’s not without its faults and there are a couple of hokey moments. Scully breaks out a “scanner” that can read words carved into bone so easily I thought for a second that CSI had interrupted my regularly scheduled program. But deus ex machina is a necessary evil when it comes to TV writing so we’ll let that go. Also, the scene where B.J. becomes Cokely and attacks Mrs. Thibedeax doesn’t read well. She’s not convincing as a man.

But here’s my main beef: Terry O’Quinn’s talents should not have been squandered on a stand-alone. Yeah, I know, he comes back for the 2008 film. But he comes in, makes an impact in only 2 minutes, and then he’s gone. Yeah, I know, he makes another guest spot in the Season 9 episode “Trust No 1” (9×6), but does anyone really remember that? And yeah, I know, Chris Carter made good use of him in his other series, Harsh Realm and Millennium, but didn’t The X-Files have seniority? All these prime 1013 opportunities and the man ends up best known for Lost. Yeah, we been gypped, yo.

A-

Questions:

One wonders if Lt. Tillman is still with his wife. Did he adopt the child as B.J.’s faithful friend or as the “baby daddy?”

Why did B.J. tell anyone about finding the body in the field? She could have left the open grave there for someone else to discover. I suppose it’s that her instincts as a detective kicked in and she felt responsible to both report and investigate the crime.

Comments:

While B.J. is a great character and well played, somehow she doesn’t feel like a female detective. She doesn’t have the strength and confidence of someone like Scully, which is no doubt why she finds herself in such a delicate situation as the episode starts.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, I’d like to know why this police woman would suddenly drive her car into a field the size of Rhode Island and for no rhyme or reason dig up the bones of a man whose been missing for 50 years. I mean unless there was a neon sign saying ‘Dig Here’.
Scully: I guess that’s why we’re going to Aubrey.
Mulder: Yes, and also… I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.

———————-

Scully: Mulder, I don’t think BJ was in the woods that night because of engine failure.
Mulder: What are you talking about?
Scully: Well the Motel Black would have been a perfect meeting place. Away from town, away from his wife.
Mulder: What do you mean?
Scully: It’s obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair.
Mulder: How do you know?
Scully: A woman senses these things.

———————–

Mulder: Well, I’ve often felt that dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.

———————–

Mulder: You mean a hunch?
Scully: Yeah, something like that.
Mulder: That’s a pretty extreme hunch.
Scully: I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.
Mulder: I never have.