Handcuffs & Food

This was a great episode. Perhaps that assessment is a product of the dumpster fires leading up to it, but I want to believe — nay, choose to believe — that it can take its place among the Pretty Good tier of X-Files MOTWs on its own merit. I liked it enough that I’m willing to break with this blog’s style book and call it “This” instead of This, even if it’s just once for the sake of clarity.

After the transgression of my previous post, I’d also like to reinstate my self-imposed rule of avoiding episode reviews. That ground is well-covered.

Instead, let’s give a couple of the themes from This a Mulder & Scully-focused back story. I think we can all agree that I need to start with…

1. Handcuffs

It’s a show about two law enforcement agents, so handcuffs abound. But we all know what kind of handcuff usage this is really about.


The main downside to this scene from season 6’s Dreamland pt II is that Scully’s leisure-time suggestion is merely a ruse to entrap Morris Fletcher, an Area 51 employee (and 3rd worst minor recurring character in the series) inhabiting Mulder’s body. Where oh where, the more degenerate among us wondered, was Mulder and Scully’s official Fun with Handcuffs?

“You want handcuffs?” Glen Morgan asked rhetorically. “Oh, I’ll give you handcuffs.”

Handcuffed fleeing…


Probably not the first time Skinner has walked in on them looking like this

Handcuffed roleplay…


If I were Langly, I’d have been more cautious about uploading my consciousness into a building whose security is *wink*

Handcuffed banter…


Each knowing line is a piece of shipperdom brought into canon. Please continue.

And on behalf of all X-Files fans, thank you, Glen Morgan. Thank you for keeping Mulder and Scully together on-screen for almost every second of this episode, and thank you for the portions of it that are in handcuffs.

2. Food

Dana Scully is a scientific mind and an independent, crime-stopping woman of law enforcement. Therefore it is unduly precious to hear Mulder and Scully discussing the merits of a muffin that may or may not have come out of an alien’s butt.


Make your own here!

Perhaps we relish scenes of quiet food appreciation because of the pause they offer in a whirling swirl of conspiracies and shadow governments. Some of the best moments of X-Files happen when the aliens are away, leaving Mulder and Scully to their own devices, and what better way to make the unsolicited Syndicate calls go to voicemail then to sit down to a nice dinner. To wit:

a. Ribs (Red Museum, season 2)


You’ve got a little something on your platonic relationship

I can’t write this section without being jealous that they’re eating ribs. That said, given the farflung and isolated locales they frequent, who knows how many of these greasy spoon dates have gone on the FBI Amex? It will remain a statistic known only to Mulder, Scully, and expense processor Layla Harrison.

Side note: the speaker at the Church of the Red Museum notes that they are “18 Earth years from the beginning of the new kingdom.” That places their new kingdom squarely in 2012, a popular year for universal upheaval. I didn’t notice the sky change color that year or anything, but maybe the new kingdom did rise and chose to maintain the status quo so as not to rock the boat. Or maybe we’re all in the Matrix.

b. Cake (Tempus Fugit, season 4)


Serves you right for not finishing your nachos

It’s Scully’s birthday, and by season 4, Mulder finally remembers it. What’s great about this particular meal of bar food, though, is that Scully doesn’t find out it’s a birthday surprise until the singing troupe of waiters comes out with what looks like a sparkler stabbed into a Hostess Sno Ball. Until that point, they were just out having dinner — no case, no furtive meeting point with an anonymous government insider, just Mulder calling up Scully and being like, “Hey, you eat yet?”

While their normal-people evening is interrupted by a harbinger of doom, at least they had their nachos.

c. Wine and Cheese (Detour, season 5)


Wait… the conference reception was potluck? #skipit

Mulder and Scully are saved from a professional development seminar by a roadblock and a nice unsolved disappearance. Since they missed the wine and cheese welcoming reception, Scully opts to host an impromptu one in Mulder’s hotel room. Fox “Suavecito” Mulder then breaks into a rhetorical debate about the nature of predators and bolts out the door to investigate, and I quote, “something.”

Some day I should do a blog post on all his missed opportunities.

In the meanwhile, another side note: the copy on these old websites is classic. I’m sure Facts & Information Encyclopedia was the Wikipedia of its day.


I prefer the Lies & Speculation Encyclopedia, myself 

d. Tuna (Arcadia, season 6)


As long as the garnish doesn’t violate the CC&Rs

Mulder and Scully are undercover as Rob and Laura Petri, and they have a nice suburban dinner party at the neighbors’ place. Mulder ruins everything by asking nosy questions and lauding the virtues of eating dolphin. In between the beginning and ruin of the dinner, though, he shares Laura Petri’s affinity for UFOs and magnetic bracelets with an enthusiasm that suggests he was projecting when he asked Scully whether she took this assignment just to play house.

e. Beer and Popcorn (Je Souhaite, season 7)


Don’t look like no poppin’ corn to me

After a long day’s work of wiping humans off the planet and then freeing a genie, Mulder decides what he and Scully need is some popcorn, a couple Shiners, and Caddyshack. As a resident of Dallas, I approve; this almost makes up for when they blew up our federal building in Fight the Future.

Side note: I recall as an obsessed teenage shipper that there was speculation on alt.tv.x-files that Mulder’s third wish was for Scully to be happy. There was also speculation that he wished for her to be pregnant, given that we find out in the next episode that she is, followed by the season 8 revelation that she had asked Mulder to be the donor for her IVF procedure.

I stand by the default explanation that he pulled an Aladdin and wished for the genie’s freedom, but I would also strenuously prefer either of those explanations to our current CSM + science baby. And we are in dire straits when any plotline looks like a worse option than season 8.


Hold me tight, precious 2001 mytharc


Open an X-File on these muffins

Scully doesn’t care whether these muffins came out of an alien’s butt; she’s still gonna eat the whole thing. And now you can, too!

Play along at home with this muffin recipe, a modified version of a recipe I found at Prepared Pantry.


Alien Butt Muffins

1 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup processed pistachios (almost ground)
1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp rum extract
2-3 drops green food coloring

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Mix all dry ingredients above (flour to processed pistachios). In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix. Add vanilla, rum extract, and food coloring; mix until just combined.

Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, alternating with buttermilk. Spoon batter into lined muffin pan. Sprinkle remaining chopped pistachios on top.

Cook at 375 degrees. Check muffins at 15 minutes and remove when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

My Struggle 3: Why. Why. Why. Why.

I. Intro (AKA the part you’ll skip)

It’s been over a year since I posted here. I’ve thought of a few topics that I might come back around to (1990s fashion in seasons 1 -3, anyone?) but the motivation always petered away, lost somewhere in the exploding backlog of my Netflix queue.


Someday, season 2…

I also have a rule for myself that I won’t write a post that does nothing but complain about an episode, regardless of which episode it is. That’s how my blog ended up with a post centered around TrustNo1 that somehow managed to go 500+ words without calling it out for the out of character, canon-busting fanfic that it is.

My Struggle 3 resolved both of these issues. I was motivated to write this post, and it’s nothing but complaining about an episode. I’m sorry. If it helps, I’ll save you some time and criticize myself for it so you don’t have to (or as a baseline for you to build your insults from):

Why would anyone just read a long rant?

I’m not sure they will.

Chris Carter created a hit television show loved by millions. What have you ever done?

I have not created a hit television show loved by millions. You got me there.

Why watch a show if you hate it so much?

It is my love of X-Files that drives me to hold the show to the high standards it set for itself. I can’t imagine it would be hard to find other examples of angry, obsessed nerds, though. Comic Book Guy comes to mind. Me and him should hang out.


Get a life.


II. Nothing but complaining

a. Monologues

We’ve been on the “let’s explain” train for a couple seasons already, but My Struggle 3 reached new heights of soliloquy. Now on top of all the conversational exposition (e.g., between Monica and CSM) —


TFW you have just been subjected to an 86-word monologue (actual count)

— and on top of the opening musings —


We found out his name is Carl Gerhard Busch, so maybe this monologue can stay

— we can fill the space in between with key characters’ spoken thoughts, serving to translate the parts of the show that were conveyed through action and acting into statements of the obvious.


Wait… Mulder is worried about Scully? This changes everything.


b. Convenience and coincidence

This is also known as lazy writing, but arguably the previous section also falls under that designation, so in the spirit of being MECE, here we go.

Scully tells Mulder that CSM can be found in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Therefore, Mulder gets in his car to go to South Carolina.


Set address to… ‘House’

Fortunately, he takes a quick break to film a Ford Mustang commercial, after which the driver who was tailing him thinks to himself, “Well, shoot. I lost him. Better drive to Spartanburg right now.”

And a few other characters join in on the improbable fun. From the fact that Mulder’s half-brother has kept his estranged family in the loop about his contact information —


New phone. Who dis.

— to the doctor at the public hospital where intelligence agencies have been dropping off participants in their top-secret experiments, which seems reckless but whatever —


Thanks, Obamacare

— to the chance appearance of the twin banes of my existence, Miller and Einstein, who come back from their Starbucks run just in time to witness Scully’s accident and to drop her off at the hospital before disappearing into the night.

Perhaps any and/or all of these shortcuts will be explained in later episodes, at which point I am ready and willing to have my mind blown.

c. Telegraphing a spin-off

I’ve expressed my feelings about Miller and Einstein before. It perplexes me that someone would want to base a series on two flat characters with no chemistry, but who am I to argue with Chris Carter’s consistent new-series success.

Maybe their derivative presence has got me over-sensitive to new characters, but it sure feels like Mr. Y is a (slightly) younger Cigarette-Smoking Man who can serve as a foil for Miller and Einstein. At least, that’s all I can see when I look at him.


You’re not officially a member of the Syndicate until Mulder threatens you with a gun

And really, who cares how a hardcore fan feels about the setup for a spin-off? If only hardcore fans watched the spin-offs, they’d never stay on air for more than half a season. If Fox wants to pick up a newer, younger X-Files, then I wish them happy trails. Just one request — can we treat this season as the grand finale of a classic show and not a launching pad for the direct-to-video version?

d. Ret-con

Building and maintaining a myth-arc is hard. Following a complex myth-arc is hard. For X-Files fans, trying to explain post-season 5 myth-arc is really, really hard.


“And then the super-soldiers were weak against magnetite, but then baby William was born as a super-soldier, except actually he was a Christmas miracle, and uhhhhh”

But how in the name of Alvin Kersh are we supposed to keep track of the myth-arc when Chris Carter reaches into the past and changes it?

In the scene in question, from season 7’s “En Ami” (quoth high-school me: “WHOA it’s like ‘enemy’ but means ‘as a friend’!!!! HOLY CRAP!!”), Cigarette-Smoking Man has driven through the night to the quaint riverside cottage where he plans to share the cure for all diseases with Scully. She wakes up in a strange bed in pajamas and accuses him of drugging her.


Line: “I carried you. You’d been up for over 30 hours, you were delirious.”

Putting aside how many Cracker Barrels they’d have had to stop at to make a trip from DC to Pennsylvania last 10+ hours, it was a characteristically creepy explanation, but one that she accepts and that neither Scully nor the series ever refer to again.

Not creepy enough for Chris Carter, mind. The new version runs a little different. And in case you missed it, it’s now framed as the forced conception of William, science-child of Scully and CSM.


Line: “We carried you, my housekeeper and I. You’d been up for over 30 hours, you were delirious. You can ask her.”

Chop that together with some slo-mo reaction shots from different episodes, and a previously innocuous shot of him putting on one glove (which, granted, was followed in the original episode by him tenderly pushing her bangs out of her face), and now you’ve cranked your run-of-the-mill creepiness up to 11!

The inclusion of the housekeeper is an interesting, if non-sequitur, choice at this point, serving either to make him look more defensive and guilty, or to set up the involvement of a character we’re already familiar with.


“Medical rape afuera.”

Putting aside (for a moment) the horrific implications this change has for a character that always seems to get the short end of the stick anyway, Chris Carter is poking at a Jenga tower here. There have been stray instances of inconvenient pieces falling out of the mytharc before when overlooked or inconvenient — Mulder claiming not to be a psychologist, Scully accusing Mulder of emotionally associating the victim in I Want to Believe with his sister even though that was soooo 5 years ago — and there have even been add-ins — Scully’s IVF comes to mind.

But reaching back and changing scenes that we’ve already seen really does not inspire belief in Chris Carter’s contention that everything is part of a plan. If that was your intent with the mytharc, would you have let the series expire without hinting at it? Would you need to change dialogue to make it seem plausible?

Though if we are going to bring unused cuts from old episodes into canon, I have a few suggestions:




e. The disenfranchisement of Dana Katherine Scully

If you’re reading this blog, then you probably read other, better X-Files blogs, too. Many of them had responses to Scully’s treatment in this episode that were appropriately negative.

Before I quote a few of them, let’s recap — this is an iconic, independent female character, who during the course of the main series is abducted, made to have a baby without her consent, found in a coma, gets cancer, finds and loses a child she didn’t know she had, loses her partner to abduction, loses her partner to death for like 8 months, gives up her baby for adoption, and is subjected to all manner of capture and beatings, though the latter two are part and parcel of being a main character on an hourlong dramatic TV series for 200+ episodes. On top of that, she also lost every family member except her estranged brother and her mother. And then in the most recent season, she loses her mother.

Since her life has been so much wild and crazy fun up until this point, the first episode of this season sees her wake up in a hospital after having severe seizures, get in a car accident, and get nearly choked to death by an assassin.

Oh, and everyone’s favorite: Cigarette-Smoking Man says he impregnated her without her permission.

I shouldn’t need to explain why this is a cheap plot move, or why it’s not a great time to medically rape your strong female lead.

Even if this were the suspenseful stroke of carefully-orchestrated genius Chris Carter thinks it is, what it does is leave Scully with very little say in anything that happens to her, basically throughout her entire life, but especially so in this episode. She’s left to play a Cassandra role, trying to get Mulder to believe her prophesies while incapacitated. When she does take matters into her own hands, she’s swatted back down again by crashing her car three feet away from the FBI building.

And her visions themselves are due to her connection with her son or something. Motherhood is a powerful bond with its own well of mystery and mystique, but especially as a woman with no plans for kids myself, it pains me to see her only point of plot influence in this episode is as a conduit for her child.

Now onto the other blogs you can read for more insight:

“The objectification of women takes many forms. In Scully’s case, it’s not sexual objectification but lack of agency. Scully is an object used to literally and figuratively give birth to other plot devices. She has no control over her own body, and her decisions are made for her. ”

Meghan M (@knifeink) of Knife Ink Reviews, in Medium

“If she’s evolved to be a believer in a way that we haven’t seen before, and she’s the independent woman, with non-standard, non-traditional views of what roles and life can be – why can’t her actions within the storyline also evolve to be one that satisfies that aspirational desire to find justice where there’s none, and have some rewards at it? It seems like there’s a lot of resignation when it comes as to how others see her and no real moment when she’s not a damsel in distress.”

Avi Quijada (@AviQuijada) in X-Files News

“Of all the disgusting, stomach-turning, hurl-inducing retcon crap. You’re gonna dig into the archives, after blatantly ignoring and shedding the series canon because you couldn’t keep track of it yourself, to find a long forgotten (if admittedly underappreciated) episode buried in the doldrums that was Season 7, a season most people didn’t much watch, and bubble back up to the surface with this pile of manure? Really?”

Salome (@xmusings) in Musings of an X-Phile