The X-Files #94: Small Potatoes

"On behalf of all the women in the world, I seriously doubt this has anything to do with consensual sex."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A shapeshifting Lothario with a tail gets into all the girls' pants, maybe even Scully's.

REVIEW: Vince Gilligan pens a comedy and has Darin "Flukeman" Morgan guest-star in it. That's kind of perfect. And it may not be as obviously subversive as Morgan's own X-Files comedies, but it's still incredibly amusing. While there are several witty lines, and the whole situation is vaguely absurd, it really starts to get good when Mulder himself is replaced by the shapeshifter who's been getting into everyone's beds and fathering tailed children (who may have his abilities, better put a watch on that town). It gives Duchovny a chance to do some physical humor - Van Blundht is clumsier than he is - but more importantly to comment on Mulder's strange, and somewhat pathetic, life. "Where do I sleep?" indeed! Mulder has no bedroom, as hawk-eyed viewers have been known to point out. Van Blundht is a loser, but feels Mulder is one by choice. It's just a whole lot of fun to see Duchovny play his character just a little bit "off", and I can't believe they took it that far. Van Blundht even reports to Skinner, for Pete's sake! It's like the episode ends, and he's still posing as Mulder, so we get an extra 15 minutes of his shenanigans in one of the lead roles.

Of course, Van Blundht is driven by his own loneliness to essentially date rape women, posing as their husbands or other romantic interests (the nerd girl is visited by Luke Skywalker for example). This is terrible given the tone of the episode, and would likely never be green-lit today. But somehow, it works. There is no distress, only farce, and if we're scared Scully will become victim number 6, it's softened because the sequence is used to comment on the two leads and their relationship. We already knew Scully found Mulder attractive, and Van Blundht provides what was missing for the relationship to move in that direction - interest. What the tipsy late-night chat reveals is that the two FBI agents, as close as we know they are, keep each other at arm's length. Here she is, talking about her life, and none of it has ever come up during a road trip, a stake-out, or whatever else these guys have gotten up to. Even in a professional environment, I've shared more with co-workers than they ever have. Other than Van Blundht being a total creep (and he at least gets put on a sex offenders list), Mulder acknowledges that he was the superior romantic interest. The ending sums up how these two are unlikely to ever get together no matter how much the 'shippers want them to. (Man, they must've thrown a fit at the time, getting trolled like this. I don't have access to the episode trailer, but I can just imagine what they were made to believe.)

Just to name a few other fun moments because I have the time: Mulder going on a Weekly World News story. His disappointment when a Jedi Knight appears to be the extra-terrestrial in question. The bit where Mulder breaks the tail off Van Blundht Sr.'s mummified corpse. Van Blundht's visit to his old girlfriend's bedside as Mulder - I admit to being slow on the uptake there - and getting his heart broken. Faux-Mulder's almost falling out of a chair. And I know I'm forgetting some. It's chock-full of good moments.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Is the striated skin muscle that allows Van Blundht to change his appearance the way the Bounty Hunter and other alien hybrids change their own? If my theory about the X-Files' mutants is correct - that they are a result of alien experimentation at some point in the past - then they could be very much related.

REWATCHABILITY: High - On paper, the subject matter seems objectionable, but I can't help but find this episode both funny and revealing for the lead characters. And it's done without really breaking the fourth wall the way the show's other comedies have done.


Green Luthor said...

For whatever it's worth (probably not much), but the woman who thought her child's father was Luke Skywalker was played by Christine Cavanaugh (who sadly passed away a few months ago). Cavanaugh did a lot of voice acting, including the title character in "Babe", Dexter in "Dexter's Laboratory", Chuckie in "Rugrats", and Gosalyn in "Darkwing Duck". (Like I said, probably not worth much, but I felt like mentioning it anyway.)

Siskoid said...

I knew that was her, but didn't know she'd died. That IS sad.


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