"Oh, man, I am going to kick their asses."
REVIEW: Following up on Season 5's Unusual Suspects, Three of a King also serves as a backdoor pilot for a Lone Gunmen series, it seems. The actual series is still years away, however, so they were probably only testing the waters with no firm intent. (Apparently, the episode is what made the spin-off look viable.) Out on their own, the Gunmen are basically a Leverage crew (missing a Hitter and Grifter), using con techniques to get government secrets they can publish in their newspaper. Byers is still pining for Susanne Modeski, who was kidnapped in front of him 10 years before, and lo and behold, she shows up with a jerky fiancé and the secret to fast and easy brainwashing. I know the show is adamant she be on the side of the angels, and sincerely in love with Byers, but the plots (and the actress) keep playing her as a film noir femme fatale, and it's almost unbelievable that she ISN'T manipulating him for her own ends.
To help them on this paranoia-inducing case, they bring in Scully under false pretenses. Frohike knows she's gonna kick their asses for this, and there's a fun button on the scene. She works well with the group, because they're kind of a three-in-one Mulder, but things get a little wonky when she gets dosed with the brainwashing drug. That she should become suggestible, fine. That it turns her into a drunk sexpot is a little extreme. It's meant to be funny, but is too silly to feel in character or revelatory of anything Scully actually thinks. The scene where she needs to be rescued from a predatory group of convention goers certainly harks back to an earlier era when non-consensual sex wasn't on everyone's radar (the bit where she meets Fletcher from Dreamland IS cute, however). At least she plays enough of a part that this doesn't feel too much like a second lead-lite episode in a row.
As far as the brainwashing plot goes, it has some engaging villains in John Billingsley and the always jerky Charles Rocket, and Bryan Spicer's direction is up to the task of making a simple mark on the skin seem suspenseful, and of juggling the various twists and misdirects required to make the story work. I like a good con story, and despite a couple of important coincidences, Three of a Kind is one. The love story isn't as strong. It's Byers' dream to be reunited with Susanne, but when he gets a chance to run off with her, he prefers a Casablanca ending to actual happiness. No reason except they insist on playing this couple in pulp terms. Meh.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Lone Gunmen are a fun trio, but the episode is all over the map, tonally.