"We may look to all the world like the National Inquirer, but we're gonna operate like the New York Times, or else I don't wanna be here."
REVIEW: I'm not entirely sure why Jimmy is standing in front of the camera telling us this story, but I don't begrudge the show trying for some style, and the narration, at least, is good. Where in The X-Files we'd get some overwrought, poetic declaration of the episode's Theme, it's Jimmy struggling to talk about the masks we all wear with a slightly awkward football helmet analogy, and that's a perfectly acceptable parody of the Chris Carter style. And the theme of masks (sorry, helmets) does carry through to many elements in the episode. Jimmy hides his money trouble (it's finally run out) and later impersonates an FBI director. Byers' college roommate was evidently transsexual, now living the life that was meant for her. There's an FBI agent posing as an arms dealer, and the roommate's brother appears to have been killed but hasn't, not unlike his computer which was wiped but had a secret back-up. And beyond the theme, there's a moral, about taking off the helmet (trusting people) and being rewarded for it.
And yeah, Walter Skinner is in this, which is great, not so much because he's the old hard-nosed Skinner, as we don't really know what his role in until the mid-point, but because Jimmy impersonates him with one of Yves' Mission Impossible masks, giving Mitch Pileggi the opportunity to lampoon Stephen Snedden's Jimmy Bond. Skinner acting and talking like Jimmy is worth the price of admission alone! He's hysterical! Whether played by Snedden or Pileggi, this is a very good episode for Jimmy. We see how far he's ready to go for his friends, and it's told from his perspective. Byers also comes out ahead, as the guy who had a trans roommate back in college and was immensely supportive at a time when such things were far less understood (even by the show's 2001 standards). The line quoted above the fold, spoken in bitter anger, is also a perfect encapsulation of his character and makes me respect him all the more. Honestly, none of the Gunmen ever give particularly subtle performances - these actors got in through the back door, so to speak - but this is a standout moment.
So that leaves the doggy humor as my one pet peeve - doo-doo in shot, humping Langly's leg, etc. - but that can hardly kill my buzz for this episode. Normally, a special guest-star might raise the score on an episode, which is a bit damning of the spin-off show. In this case, The Lying Game is clever, thoughtful and funny enough that Skinner's inclusion, while required, isn't the be-all and end-all of it.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Skinner is Jimmy Bond. The high point of the series?