Saturday, July 6, 2019

X-Files S6E7: Ashes to ashes

Sestra Amateur: 

Bruce Campbell – known to most as Brisco County, Sam Axe, Evil Dead’s Ash, and star of some of the best bad movies you’ve ever seen – guest stars on this week’s episode. He’s trying to play the straight man in an overly dramatic scene in which he and his wife, Laura Weinsider – played by Lisa Jane Persky – learn their unborn child may not be normal. Wayne Weinsider seems like the caring husband as he puts “Poopydoo” (worst term of endearment ever!) to bed and gives her warm milk and … medication? A sleeping pill? We’ll find out soon enough. 

Poor Laura dreams of fire and a demon at the foot of her bed who forcibly removes the horned baby from her belly. Fortunately, she bites him on the neck. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a dream. Wayne’s hands and Laura’s nightgown are covered in blood. Fortunately, Laura’s brother is a local deputy sheriff who doesn’t know what to do with the case, so he contacts the X-files. Unfortunately, it’s Jeffrey Spender’s unit now – remember? He placates Deputy Stevens then “files” the report in the shredder. Fortunately, Mulder is a garbage picker who pieces the report back together and contacts the deputy.

Fox meets with the Weinsiders, listens to Laura’s description of her “dream” and learns the results of the sonogram. Mulder already suspects Wayne is being less than truthful and calls Scully, who is at the Department of Agriculture conducting boring background checks. She’s livid because Fox is shirking his assigned responsibility, but he has an original, albeit laughable, defense: “Scully, this is a classic case of demon fetal harvest!” Mulder wants Dana to look at the baby’s sonogram photo and review the medical reports. Too bad Wayne is listening to Fox's conversation on the baby monitor. Um, how is he able to hear Scully’s side too? It’s not like Mulder was using the speaker phone.

Later that night, Rosemary – I mean Laura – is looking for Wayne, who is burning leaves outside. He has a great defense – “It was in the job jar!” – and burns the fetus in the outside furnace while crying fake Vaseline tears. (Don’t get me wrong, Wayne is clearly devastated, but the crying makeup they used for Bruce was pretty lame.) 

The next morning, Dana phones Fox with her analysis. She thinks Laura intentionally caused a late-term abortion by consuming mandrake (the pill Wayne gave her before bed) because the baby was deformed. Mulder still suspects Weinsider, which is clear when he doodles horns on Wayne's photograph while talking with Scully. Weinsider goes home to see his wife, “Poopydoo” … but it’s a different home and a different pregnant wife. This one is Betsy Monroe, played by Grace Phillips, whose hypnotic blue eyes rival only movie actress Meg Foster’s. 

Wayne returns to the Weinsider house where Fox, Deputy Stevens and local officers are combing the area for evidence. Mulder baits Wayne with some devilish comments. Wayne pulls Laura aside and claims he found his wife holding their baby and chanting while in a trance. He claims he burned Wayne Jr.’s body to protect her. The deputies find the remains in the furnace and Laura begins to believe she had something to do with the baby’s death. So the wife goes to jail and Weinsider thinks he is free to try again with his next baby mama. 

Too bad Fox's on his tail when Wayne goes to pick up Betsy for her sonogram. (At least Weinsider has cool driving music, "I’m Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage.) Wayne tries to throw Mulder off the trail by seeing one of his clients. Did you know phlebotomy is a skill requirement for insurance agents? Yeah, I don’t buy it either. The client notices some lumps on the back of Weinsider's neck but doesn’t say anything. Wayne solves his Fox problem by complaining to assistant director Kersh, who calls Dana, who calls Mulder. This gives Weinsider a chance to get away from Fox.

Later that night, Wayne meets Laura at the Roanoke County Jail. She sees the bite mark on Wayne’s neck and now knows what he is. Wayne regrettably sucks the life out of Laura. He tells Mulder and police she died in his arms, but Fox clearly isn’t buying it. Paramedics manage to bring Laura back, which stuns Wayne. When he finally makes it back to Betsy, she shows him their baby’s sonogram picture and tells him about the visible bone growths. She doesn’t seem as upset by it as Laura was, but Wayne is clearly disappointed and prepares to do to Betsy what he did to Laura. 

Scully finally finds her way to Mulder whose background check -- see, Kersh? He’s doing his job -- of Wayne Weinsider shows three other fake names for the “horned demon who sucks the souls of the innocent.” (My personal favorite is Bud Hasselhoff.) Local police use subterranean mapping equipment in the yard of one of Wayne’s former homes and find the remains of a horned fetus. Fox tells Deputy Stevens to put an APB out on Weinsider, who just gave Betsy some spiked warm milk. She didn’t finish it though, so when Demon Wayne tries to take the fetus, Betsy fights back. 

Sculder head toward Wayne’s second residence, but find Betsy driving Wayne’s car. (You know he’s going to be mad that she got blood all over his seats.). She claims Weinsider took her baby, so the agents head to her house and find Wayne outside with a shovel. He says he’s digging up the baby and tries to explain how Betsy is different, but his brother-in-law shoots him three times before Weinsider can finish. 

Post-surgery, the hospital staff puts Wayne’s bed next to comatose Laura’s. (Whose brilliant idea was that?!) He transfers his essence (spirit, soul, whatever) to Laura’s body then dies. Dana, who is back at the crime scene digging up baby remains, cannot find Betsy’s baby. Fox arrives and convinces her she won’t because Betsy played everyone. She wanted a demon baby and now she has one. So good job there, Wayne. Too bad they didn’t follow up this episode during the reboot so we could see where the demon baby is now. At least Betsy was able to clean the blood off the car seats. And as much as I love the Garbage song, it’s not put to accurate use in this episode because Betsy is clearly happy and there’s not a drop of rain in sight. 

Sestra Professional:

"Terms of Endearment" had never been a favorite episode of mine, but it's one of those rare times when I like something more in retrospect than I did during original run. The initial issue might have been Bruce Campbell playing the everyman. I might have been expecting something more out of a guest star of this ilk. Spoiler alert: He won't even be snagging Guest Star of the Week kudos. But I do come around on this casting choice.

I just want it to be normal: There is a lot to be said for Campbell's portrayal of Wayne. Before we even get into the opening credits, we understand Weinsider is feeling some kind of ultimate disappointment about the malformed baby. It's not exactly what we think it is at first, but the internal blow he's taken is certainly palpable.

Since we've had a few lighter-of-spirit episodes by this time in Season 6, I guess it was time for a true monster-of-the-week offering. They sure went whole hog on this one. There's an unfortunate aftereffect, though. Wayne's transformation into a nightmare fire devil, the fetus with horns and that demonic exchange of breath thing all seem kind of cartoonish. Even director Rob Bowman couldn't avoid that.

What's more effective -- albeit something of a ripoff -- was writer David Amann's pilferage from both Rosemary's Baby and Hitchcock. The first was more obvious. The latter, remember how twice Wayne dubiously carries a glass of milk up a staircase to his wife? That mirrored the action in Hitchcock's Suspicion when Cary Grant brought poisoned milk to Joan Fontaine, complete with the strategically placed illumination of the liquid to point out that something's off with it.

I just wanted what everyone wants: Ultimately this just a character study of Wayne. Campbell portrays him as genuinely sad about what he's going through. He's another one of those X-Files villains who does abominable things, but we can at least understand if not side with him. Wayne's apparently been trying to have a healthy, normal baby for a long time, and the demon's love for Laura does seem genuine -- even if he says the same things to Betsy that he says to her. 

There are some choice Mulder moments in the episode -- he gets to tail and antagonize his suspect. And even if his quips aren't as sharp as they usually are, it's fun to see him have the upper hand more than he generally does in the mythology episodes. Of course, he figures out Wayne's dealio, even if he doesn't quite gauge Betsy's until it's too late.

Ultimately that leaves Scully almost completely bereft in this one. Let's see, she gets to do their actual assignment, examine fetus corpses, get chewed out (off camera) by the boss, read research and ride in the car. This is not character growth by any stretch of the imagination.

Even Spender seems to have more to do than Dana does here. Then again, he's developed something a dream cushy job. All he has to do is take reports and then shred them. I wish they would flesh him out a little, it's so easy to write Jeffrey off right now.

Speaking of thankless roles, Persky really grounds the character of Laura, first when Wayne tells her she harmed her own baby while she was in a trance, and then when she admits to her brother that she didn't know what she was doing. It's easy to understand that the devil actually fell for her amidst his legions of victims. 

Betsy isn't like Laura: We quickly see things aren't the same with Betsy, even before we know what she's up to. This wife seems to have more spine -- bony or not -- than Laura did, even before she puts the kibosh on his fiery transformation. And two thumbs way up for possibly the best twist of the entire series. For all the ham-fisted throwaway lines like the potential insurance customer telling her children, "Slow down monsters," the saving Grace winds up being that Laura wanted the exact opposite of Wayne. Well except for taking off in his car, which apparently only has one CD in it. By the way, I don't think she needed rain specifically, it's just the idea of what's misery to us is happiness to her.

Monster mash meta: Campbell auditioned for the role of Season 8-9 lead John Doggett, saying on Twitter that he read for the part on the same day as Robert Patrick (who got the gig) and Lou Diamond Phillips. ... Credit Chris Carter with the ultimate revelation. Amann came up with the reverse Rosemary's Baby concept, but according to the official episode guide, the show creator was the one who said "What if the second woman wants the exact opposite of what the guy wanted?" ... Chris Owens noted in the episode guide he started getting recognized for playing Spender around this time. "One day, somebody actually waved his finger at me and just said, 'Paper shredder!'"

Guest star of the week: Sorry, Bruce and Lisa Jane. You did fleshed out your respective characters really well. But Grace Phillips stole the spotlight as Laura, a woman with power and determination. It was a helluva twist that saved the ep and her fiendish portrayal fueled that.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

X-Files S6E6: Have yourself a spectral little Christmas

Sestra Amateur: 

I think my X-Fest experience is going to affect my reviews, but I’m not yet sure if it’ll be in a good way or a bad way. Maybe it falls under the umbrella of “knowledge is power.” Now that I’ve met some of the behind-the-scenes creative forces and managed to have one-on-one experiences with them (well, two-on-one since Sestra Pro was with me), maybe I will appreciate them more (or less). I guess we’ll have to see.

This is the way to do a bottle episode. Chris Carter can keep his ongoing, ever-changing mythology, especially if he give us fun stand-alone episodes like this one. Plus, it gives us yet another original score from Mark Snow that perfectly fits the mood. 

Scully meets Mulder outside an abandoned Maryland house on a foggy Christmas Eve night. (Funny how the fog looks more authentic in Vancouver than it does in Los Angeles.) Dana claims she’d rather be wrapping. Don’t you wish she really meant “rapping”? No one would see that coming. Fox claims he wants to go apparition-busting and tells Scully the tragic tale of Lyda and Maurice, the deceased homeowners. Mulder goes inside while Dana tries to leave, but she loses her car keys. Or did they get stolen?? It’s a moot point because Sculder get locked inside the “haunted” house. We could turn this episode into a drinking game -- one shot whenever Scully says she wants to go home, one beer every time she says she’s not scared, one glass of wine when she tries to rationalize a haunting with science. Wait, you’ll die of alcohol poisoning. Nevermind…

Sculder enter the library, which was dark and empty before but is now well lit with a recently extinguished fire in the fireplace. Fox discloses how there have been three double murders in the house, all on Christmas Eve. You know, it is actions like this that can convince me Mulder doesn’t really like (or love) Dana: He brings her to the house on the one night she could be murdered?!?! 

Fox discovers skeletal remains under the floorboards that are not only dressed like Sculder, they are Sculder! They bolt from the library and enter … the same room. They stupidly decide to split up and end up separated. (I realize that’s what happens when people split up, but clearly our intrepid heroes did not see that coming.)

Mulder is bricked into the library. He meets an old man played by Lou Grant himself, Ed Asner, who is annoyed that an armed person broke into his house. Fox tries to show him the skeletons in the floor, but they’re gone. The old man zeroes in on Mulder’s personality soooo quickly. (“Are you overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe you?”) Fox tries to deny it, but you can see Maurice is getting to him. 

Meanwhile, in the “other” bricked-in library, Scully finds an old lady – played by the truly original Lily Tomlin – who tries to convince her there are ghosts in the house. She messes with Dana’s head to the point that Scully threatens to shoot this lovely, unarmed couple. Luckily, Dana realizes something is amiss when she sees Lyda with a hole in her stomach and Maurice with a hole in his head. So how does she react? Scully faints dead away. Mulder is a little more accepting when he finally meets Lyda, who shows Fox the leather-bound story of their lives … well, deaths. Fox claims he won’t murder Dana or let her commit suicide. And they say romance is dead.

Scully regains consciousness only to have Maurice get to her with the truth about Mulder’s lonely, dark existence. Fox attempts to enter Dana's room while Scully forces Maurice at gunpoint to open the door. Mulder enters and shoots at his partner, who tries to talk him out of his psychosis. She fails and take a shot in the gut for her trouble. Just when he’s about to turn the gun on himself – well, Lyda-as-Mulder – Maurice stops him … her. The real Fox then enters the room and tends to Dana, who shoots Mulder in the chest with one bullet. But it’s actually Lyda-as-Scully because the woman gets around.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" starts to play as Sculder leave bloody trails while crawling through the house. Our heroes have one final standoff (so to speak), but choose not to shoot each other. Then Fox realizes they’re not actually shot, it was just mind tricks. Even their white shirts are white again. They finally wise up and get the hell out of there. “Maurda” (Lyrice?) wax nostalgic about the evening in front of their fireplace. 

Back in his lonely apartment, Mulder pathetically watches A Christmas Carol until Dana arrives unannounced. They talk it out and exchange gifts. Scully gives Fox a videocassette (you can hear it when he shakes it). I’ll bet it was that alien autopsy special Jonathan Frakes hosted in 1995. Either that or Scrooged so he can update his keep-acting-this-way-and-you’ll-end-up-alone video collection. Final note: It was a little disconcerting to watch and review the Christmas episode on the first day of summer (aka the longest day of the year). Too bad the summer has just begun.

Sestra Professional:

"How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" has long ranked near the very top of my list of episodes for the entire run. It's also a time-tested popular selection when Sibling Cinema considers which episode of The X-Files we should watch when we're together and not under the guise of the rewatch blog.

For me, the reason is two-fold: First, Chris Carter finally found his footing for bottle episodes. Between this and "Triangle" (the other Sibling Cinema top pick) a few episodes ago, he has stopped trying to write in the vein of Darin Morgan or Vince Gilligan and really developed a style and language befitting the characters he created. Second, it's an acting showcase. We have David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who know Mulder and Sculder inside out by this point, matching up with legends Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. It's particularly sweet how Carter's script mixes and matches them up over the course of the episode. And the actors apparently just had a field day with that.

Speaking of firing on all cylinders, Mark Snow contributes a completely fitting score to the proceedings. At X-Fest, the master composer told us he thought he always hit at least an 8 on his own ranking scale and sometimes an 11. This one is definitely an 11 for me. Snow uses the harpsichord to add eeriness and heighten our anxiety. It's completely different from what we usually hear in the series and also feels different from other stories of this ilk.

It was a time of dark, dark despair: Mulder does unveil the story of the star-crossed lovers in a most convincing manner. The scene is beautifully shot by director of photography Bill Roe, I may add. Anyway, Maurice and Lyda made a murder-suicide pact that would enable them to spend all of eternity together. That story alone draws so many parallels between the ghosts and the heroes we've spent over six seasons with. Maurice, the brooding heroic figure, and Lyda, the sublime beauty, seem a lot like Fox and Dana to me.

There's some discussion about Dana not believing in ghosts, but we've certainly covered that territory a few times during the series. What about when you saw your father's image around the time of his passing back in Season 1, Episode 13, Scully? Dana offers up some of her usual rationality with talk about how people conjure up ghosts because they need to believe in something beyond this mortal coil and don't want to be without their loved ones. She deems it the essence of being human in general and of Christmas specifically. 

What a majestic set Mulder and Scully find themselves trapped in -- and in the case of the mummified bodies, under. (Credit production designer Corey Kaplan for that.) But Fox is right, Dana. They really have been in scarier circumstances than these, it's funny to us and unusual but perhaps appropriate for her to become exceedingly unhinged by a creepy house with a disappearing staircase and identical rooms.

Most people would rather stick their finger into a wall socket than spend a minute with you: Maurice's analysis of Mulder hits pretty close to home. Before he blew a hole in his head, Maurice was in the field of mental health dealing with a lot of people who fall into the category of narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac. Sound like anyone we know? He goes on to detail Fox as single-minded and prone to obsessive compulsiveness, workaholicism and antisocialism. And he warns that if Mulder keeps chasing paramasturbatory illusions to give his life meaning that he's heading for a "total wacko breakdown." 

Speaking of that kind of descent, Dana's pretty much lost it before she encounters her first ghost, Lyda. I know I'd hate it if corpses under the floor disappeared, though. And then to be told she has a small life chasing things she doesn't believe in had to be a tough blow. Hmmm, intimacy through co-dependence. That has kind of a true ring to it as well. The Death Becomes Her holes in Maurice and Lyda's persons were too much for the overly analytical mind to take, I suppose.

I don't show my hole to just anyone: Another of the reasons this story fares so well is because Carter does have some interesting theories to posit when it comes to the idea of the star-crossed lovers. He blows a hole in Scully's theory about people needing the ghosts to look the same as they did in life. Carter's script dismisses the poetic illusions, although if the romance was the first thing to go for the ghosts, we see the bond they forged in life still remains in death. And Lyda-as-Mulder's line about "365 shopping days to even more loneliness" provides a sad insight that none of us probably want to consider.

Metaphysical mashing: In The Complete X-Files, Anderson recalled how much fun the dynamic duo's non-stop bickering was in this show. ... In the official episode guide, Kaplan said the plan was to make it like the one-set My Dinner with Andre and save some production money in the process. ... Kaplan won an award of excellence from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Art Directors for this ep. ... According to the guide, Tomlin was a longtime fan of the show who met with Carter about two years before he wrote Lyda for her. He had Bob Newhart originally in mind for Maurice, but the comedian didn't want to do the role. So Asner was tapped and blew everyone away with his performance. ... Maurice tells Fox he knows people at the ACLU. Of course, Asner does as well as a longtime activist. ... So Fox's present was a videotape, but what the heck did he give Dana? That question has baffled fans for decades. ... Oh, and Mulder, you were never shot first in any scenario.

Guest stars of the week: Like I can choose between Asner and Tomlin. Both of them ensure Maurice and Lyda's story is indeed well told. They match wits with our leads so well, voice fans' sentiments -- well, we probably wouldn't thought of "paramasturbatory" -- and play off each other just perfectly. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

X-Fest 2: Best con in any universe

We interrupt our regularly scheduled rewatch blog to recap the action from last week's X-Fest 2 in Schaumburg, Illinois. And there was a lot of it. I wish every pop-culture convention could be as laid-back as this one at the Hyatt Regency.

You didn't have to be staying at the hotel to run into cast and crew from The X-Files. That happened a lot. It was fabulous to walk down the hall and say “Hi, Nick” to Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek) or “Morning, Frank” to executive producer Frank Spotnitz. It did take some time to get used to that, all the fans initially were all bugging out over the casual nature of seeing Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner) with a bunch of Snickers bars, The Lone Gunmen (Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood together again!) and The Enigma (The Conundrum) at the bar. But no one bum-rushed people asking for autographs and selfies. I think the celebrity guests were given time and space that they wouldn't have gotten at an event not brought to you by This Con Life.

And that's how we all lived for the weekend. You may not have gotten a kiss goodbye on the cheek from Mark Snow, but then again, I didn’t pose for a silly selfie with Chris Owens (The Great Mutato/Spender/Young Cigarette Smoking Man) or get an “I’m hongry” phone call from Karin Konoval (Mrs. Peacock/Judy/Chucky/Madame Zelda). Which is not to say I don’t have Chris and Karin stories from outside the con doors, ‘cause I do.

At one point, you stop counting the times you said "hi" or rode the elevators with the celebs. Well, except for the time Sestra Am and I were trying to go down to the show floor, accidentally got in the elevator going up and "picked up" Larry Musser (Detective Manners/Jack Bonsaint/Denny Markham/Sheriff John Oaks) on the floor above us.

OK, even when sleep deprived, I remember initially seeing Dean Haglund smirk at my "Get in Loser" t-shirt at the elevator. But I recovered when Chris Owens came our way, and he remembered us before the show even opened when we bumped into each other again.

After spending the day at Wrigley Field, we started X-Fest by watching the trivia competition and rooting for the friends I met at the inaugural con and two sets of X-Cast teams. There was something deeply weird about the buzzers on the right side of the dais, but it was a fun way to get underway. Maybe the questions should get tougher as the rounds progress.

We had no idea what to expect from The Enigma's show, but it was a fascinating blend of really gross things and humor. He swallowed a sword and a light saber -- I found it particularly funny that he could do that but didn't want to ingest hair from his costume wig. The Enigma hammered and drilled nails into his nose. He inhaled a condom through his nose and exhaled it through his mouth, and then the reverse. There was a prolonged bit involving draining blue and yellow Gatorade through tubes, inevitably returning it to the bottle as green before drinking that too. E put hooks in his face and blindfolded himself while hanging a running chainsaw from them. He became a human Lite-Brite. At least he has a great motto -- "Safety third. Fame and fortune first."

After that part of the program, we watched his Season 2 episode "Humbug" and he hosted a question-and-answer session. I just had to ask -- quoting from the ep -- "Are you one of those rare individuals whose nerve endings don't feel pain?" E shook his tattooed head "no" and told us about his history. After being raised on private lessons, he discovered sideshows and a willingness to give his life for magic. "Even though it's silly and funny, it's my life and all that," he said. "Sometimes you have to give up your life to be who you are."

The Enigma told us his look all started because he wanted to be blue and about 250 artists from around the world have contributed puzzle-piece tattoos. Darin Morgan based "Humbug" on him and others in his sideshow, giving artistic credibility to them and The X-Files. He recalled meeting director Kim Manners (the five-star hotel wouldn't let him in the bar because of his facial piercing). He further detailed that he didn't actually eat a fish and how cold it was to be filming soaking wet and wearing just a piece of leather. And he came up with the best fan fiction idea I've ever heard -- The Conundrum vs. Flukeman.

We started Day 2 in an intimate breakfast with Frank Spotnitz. After asking the attendees about ourselves, he told us about the episodes that never got written -- more great fan fiction ideas! -- a guy who died tells Scully there is no God, and the one I always waited for, a Krycek episode. I wish I asked him more about what the idea was for that one.

I always ask people who have worked with the late, great Kim Manners -- who directed more episodes of The X-Files than anyone else -- about him. Frank teared up right away. "I loved him, we all did," he said. He described Kim's the best way I've ever heard, that he was an "emotional camera," always looking for the power in the scene. Spotnitz has remembered that ever since and has never seen anyone capture moments to the degree Manners consistently did it.

According to Frank, show creator Chris Carter's original plan was for the show to last five years and Mulder would find his sister, Samantha, at the end. Ultimately, the end of the regular run proved to be a bit of a disappointment. "It wrapped up the plot. It didn't wrap up the emotional journey," he said. "In our defense, it would have been really tough to do that."

Spotnitz was very forthright about how I Want to Believe was never intended to be the end of The X-Files. He was disappointed he couldn't work on the revival since he was helming The Man in the High Castle and expressed great surprise over the ultimate ending of the show. In a finale, he said, you have to give the viewers what they want, but you also have to have a level of surprise. "What [Chris] did was none of those things," he admitted. "I think he went way into the 'surprise the audience' side. He was trying to keep the show new and vital." He stopped short of dumping on it, but added it wasn't the way he would have gone with it.

Frank, who ran the writers' room, said fans ultimately helped make the series what it was. "They remembered everything," he said. "So we pushed ourselves to be as smart as we could. I think that's why a lot of the writers have gone on to have great careers." He credited the friendly directorial rivalry between Manners and Rob Bowman for the visual sophistication of the early years. "Chris set this work ethic in place. Those of us who stayed thrived," he said.

Spotnitz was the one who was able to induce Darren McGavin onto the show. Kolchak had been an inspiration to Carter as The Night Stalker, but initially he considered The X-Files a ripoff of his program. Frank and John Shiban wrote Season 4's "Travelers" as an homage to The Night Stalker, with McGavin's Agent Dales initially discovering the X-files in the '50s.

After recapping the breakfast on the X-Cast podcast, the Sestras set out to start a frenzied day split between the autograph room and the professional photo ops included in the platinum package. For years, I've been working on "The X-Files Yearbook Project," getting as many autographs from people involved in the show in my copy of The Complete X-Files. X-Fest 2 was a veritable supermarket to that end.

We just had to start out with Musser, since he's one of the best characters in my favorite episode of television of all time -- Season 3's "Jose Chung's From Outer Space." Larry was so engaging, I could have spent the rest of the day just talking with him. (And actually, I'll get another chance at asking everything I wanted to because I'm going to be co-hosting an X-Cast podcast with him next week.) We talked about how Detective Manners was based on the director, who actually was going to play the role at one point but ultimately decided against it. He said "Jose Chung" was as much fun as we all expected it to have been to work on. Originally, Detective Manners' "colorful phraseology" was just going to be bleeped out, but they decided to have Musser actually say "bleep" and the like instead. Thank goodness for that, it adds a whole other level of charm to the proceedings.

Then we swiftly moved over to Jeff Gulka (Gibson Praise). Being in the Vancouver regular-season finale in Season 5 was his first professional speaking part and the chess scene in front of thousands, many of whom were fans, was the first one they shot. Then 11 years old, he thought he might be in the movie and on the show for longer since Gibson was said to be "the secret to everything in the X-Files," but only came back for the Season 6 premiere. Well, until he was called upon again for the two-part opener of Season 8. "I didn't even know if I still had an agent," he laughed about his S8 return.

Owens had a smile on his face as the duo he kept running into in the hall and at the elevators approached his table. Although he made quite an impression in Season 4 episodes as The Great Mutato and Young Cigarette Smoking Man, I just wanted to talk to him about my favorite Jeffrey Spender episode, "Triangle." He recalled being outfitted head to toe in German military gear and watching his on-screen dad, William B. Davis, try to get through the long speeches without messing up the 10-minute takes reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, thinking, "My dad is rambling in this cue." Then he told us about one specific outrageous rehearsal moment. "In the ballroom scene, David is thrown to the floor in front of me. He just started undoing my fly," Owens said.

We talked with The Enigma about the previous night's show. I told him that the Gatorade routine made me a little nauseous on the heels of the prep for my recent colonoscopy. Nothing like talking about spewing watery liquid with a guy whose character ate an underdeveloped, murderous conjoined twin. And then the perfect intro to having him sign the yearbook -- "It wouldn't be complete without the missing puzzle piece."

I was eager to tell Brian Huskey that he lived every fan's dream as Reggie Something in Season 11's "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat," getting inserted into vintage X-Files episodes and calling our leads "Sculls" and "Foxy." "I won the sweepstakes," he said. "Darin blows everything up and tweaks it." Although the yearbook's edition ended after the second movie, Brian came up with the idea of signing on a page from one of the episodes Reggie was cut and pasted into and posed with our business card. I'll call that a ringing Sibling Cinema endorsement.

We figured we could squeeze in a Gunman or two before the photo ops began in earnest and started with Tom Braidwood, who continued to do first assistant director duty through the Vancouver years even though he was part of the cast as Melvin Frohike. Tom had a great Manners story at the ready. Kim was directing a scene with two actors, one in the background. And the latter asked him whether he could be seen in the shot. Manners just shot back, "It doesn't matter anyway, you're just a piece of shit in the background." Braidwood said he "grabbed him and said, 'You can't say that.' But that was just his way of talking, he didn't mean anything by it."

Bruce Harwood, the heart of the Lone Gunmen John Fitzgerald Byers, cracked me up when he looked at his yearbook photo and said, "Take it on the face"? He too had a most excellent Manners story. "He gave me the most useful information I've ever gotten as an actor," Harwood said in a much more serious vein. "He said, 'Kick it in the ass,' which means don't waste my time, but don't forget about what you're doing."

We headed off for photo ops. Owens gave us each an extra squeeze and then we departed with a "See you in the lobby!" When Huskey arrived, I started a "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" chant and he flashed us bull horns. Right before the picture, I joked, "We're your favorites, right?" "Yes," he answered diplomatically. And the Lone Gunmen meet Sibling Cinema picture? I told them it was a dream come true that was 30 years in the making. One of them -- all I can be sure of was that I don't think it was Braidwood -- said they'd make it worth the wait. We immediately decided that would be our new Facebook cover photo.

A great friend of mine from another obsession, General Hospital, came down from Wisconsin to visit with me that day. We gave Georgia our extra pass and she went to a couple panels -- including her mom's favorite, Pileggi -- while we continued running around. The Sestras did see part of Lea's panel, though. Nick said he really wishes he could play Krycek again, because he's a much better actor now than he was when he was on the show. "It kind of gnaws at me a bit," he admitted. "The opportunity to revisit and improve on this character is something I'd like to do."

Lea told the assembled he loved getting his hands dirty and recounted his favorite hanging-off-the-balcony, exploding-car and running-from-horses tales that we've heard before at other cons. "Opening the script was always like Christmas," he said. Then he talked about his daughters: "On Dec. 17, my life changed. ... One baby is a challenge, two babies are like 15 times harder. But they're pretty cute."

Later, we met Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully). She pointed out Gillian Anderson was pregnant and hogging the umbrella in the yearbook photo of Dana with her mom. "Look at those cheeks!" she exclaimed. Larken's story about Manners involved him acting out the scene for her. "Then when I did the scene, he said, 'Cut! Print!' I said, 'I get it, when I acted the way you did, you said, 'Cut! Print!'"

And then back to the photo op room again. We got hugs from Nicholas Lea and congratulated him on the birth of his girls. He happily conveyed that twins "happen to you." Larken told the first person on line for hers that she was uncomfortable about doing studio portraits. When I said we'd make it as painless as possible, she said we should look serious. At least two of us did, anyway, Sestra Am caved at the last second and smiled.

For Musser, we were going to act like he just said, "You bet your blankety-blank bleep I am" from "Jose Chung." Afterward, he correctly deduced when we went right to the line for Annabeth Gish (Monica Reyes) that we were going to have quite a collection of photos from the event. He said he'd understand if we ranked Gish higher than him. I made him laugh with my retort, "no bleeping way."

Annabeth commented on our combination X-Files/Blockbuster "I Want to Believe" shirts, and I said we wanted them to reflect that we've been watching her since the VHS days in great flicks such as Mystic Pizza, Hiding Out, Shag and The Last Supper. She loved that (oh, before I forget, Haglund loved them too) ... and I have proof of Gish's appreciation because there's a video floating around Facebook of that exact moment.

We high-tailed it back to the autograph room, because the Lone Gunmen were only there for one day and I could not miss Dean ... again. Everyone seemed to have played it the way we did, Braidwood and Harwood's queues were empty and everyone was in Haglund's. From my spot on line, I played a variation on charades with Bruce. He pointed to Tom's line and then his own, and then Dean's full line. I shook my head and then smacked it in best I-could-have-had-a-V8 manner. Harwood laughed.

When I made it up to Haglund, I just had to go into the time-tested, battle-scarred story of the X-Files Expo I sort of attended in Florida back in 1998. He threw his head back and laughed as I delivered the sob story of how my hungover friend arrived late and puked in my mom's driveway before we got to the event too late for me to see him. Dean asked whether I was still friends with her. And I said, yep, we are ... and all is certainly forgiven now that I finally met him.

We power-walked back to the photo ops to get E -- who affably reacted to my use of that letter, so I'm assuming it's OK -- a day early. He said all the fans are the real stars. And Gulka soaked in all our attention as we wrapped up the autograph/photo portion of the day ahead of schedule, with nine actors tucked away in the yearbook instead of the planned seven.

Then we met up with Georgia at the Lone Gunmen's screening of Season 5's "Unusual Suspects." It can't be measured with existing technology how much fun it is to watch Braidwood, Haglund and Harwood play off each other. They recalled filming the episode while the show's leads were doing things for the feature film. The trio's antics included "trashing David Duchovny's trailer," watching Jackie Chan movies in the original Cantonese and playing Nintendo 64.

Braidwood told the crowd he would have directed a couple of episodes if the original run had continued to many awwws and they laughed about how this episode's director Manners -- who had quit smoking -- was chewing on a toothpick and yelling the whole time. Harwood enjoyed having the spotlight before they had to go back to working one day a week, usually at the tail end of the week. They laughed about the different ways Manners tried to get all three of them in the frame. "Put your head at a 90-degree angle under Tom's armpit," Haglund laughed. And they all had different favorite X-Files monsters of the week: Braidwood, Tooms ... Harwood, Fluke ... Haglund, Enigma.

Dean told the hilarious story of how hard Fox allegedly tried to contact him for the revival ... when the show could have just gone to and emailed him. The paranoia had already spread to the actors when they thought the Gunmen might have been recast for Season 10 with Luke Perry, Jason Priestley ... and Fran Drescher?!? In addition to his entertaining podcast Chillipak Hollywood with Phil Leirness, Haglund plans to complete a graphic novel by Christmas (the inference was this holiday season) and also has been filming stop-motion segments with customized Lone Gunmen Legos given to him by an Australian fan.

And the last event of the day was the screening of "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" with Huskey. He recalled originally looking at the script as straight drama and thinking, "Oh, shit, I'm in a lot of this." The Veep veteran, who joked he got the gig because he looks like Darin Morgan, recalled the writer/director told Brian he wanted him to deliver the lines "in a bunch of weird ways." There were 36 costume changes involved in the show, not to mention the pinpoint accuracy needed to insert him into previous episodes. "This is one of my favorite life experiences I ever had," Huskey said, before closing by telling fans that the straitjacket feels like "a hug that never ends, so don't be afraid to go crazy, guys."

Sunday morning started with breakfast with Annabeth Gish, and this was really different than Spotnitz's. (Over the eggs at the buffet, I did run into Nick, who was doing his in the same room.) There was very little X-Files discussion, it was mostly going around the table and Annabeth finding out about people who were big enough fans of hers to be there. She imagined a movie or TV show about the jobs of every single one of us at the table. We were all female, and Gish really enjoyed the aspect of women supporting women. But we did develop a secret handshake that she can always remember as a sign of the 12 people who were in that room.

Our time with her ended before I knew it, but before it did, I brought up my biggest disappointment of the revival -- the destruction of Monica's character. The person who had been the most stand-up person during the regular run had turned into the opposite with absolutely no explanation of why. Annabeth said she pleaded with Chris for something, but ultimately did the best she could. "Great hair, great suits ... but I had no voice," she stated perfectly. I went off to see my X-Cast friends and share everything about the meal except the details of the secret handshake.

After that, I brought the photo of Nick and I taken at the first X-Fest to him to be autographed. He said I looked terrified in it, like I wasn't expecting the hug. Maybe I was just overwhelmed at the time. I recapped for him how the line behind me had been "oohing" and "aahing" over that moment.

From there, we went to see the incredible Mark Snow, who did the scores for the entire series as well as Millennium and much more. "I thought I always did a good job," he said. "At least an 8, sometimes an 11." Sestra Am and I talked about one of the 11s, Season 4's "Paper Hearts," which was one of his favorites as well. And I bemoaned the fact that the swing music from S6's "Triangle" will never be released because the show had never gotten clearance to use the piece in the first place. We also talked about the fun he had doing in "Jose Chung," which included a parody of the theme song, and I expressed my appreciation for Millennium.

Full credit is due to Sestra Am for coming up with the idea for my new favorite celeb photo of all time. Nick and I are hugging on one side of the frame, and she's giving me the stink eye on the other side with a big gap in between us. The part not viewed in the picture is how Nick and I were still posing while Sestra went to check the shot to make sure it was perfect. Then we, of course, had to recreate it by switching places for her favorite, Mitch. I think I look more sad than pissed in that variation, but it was also great fun to do. Much thanks to Lea, Pileggi and Wolf Photo Studios for being great sports for that. We were laughing for hours after that, and I still chuckle looking at them a week later.

I got to finally meet Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully), who seemed stunned to hear that people didn't much care for Scully's sister at the time, but now think of the character more fondly. Then she remembered the sexual tension that was built into the scripts between Melissa and Dana's work partner. She has a deep-seated fear of slash fan fiction that I actually share. In other news, how can there not be a real picture of her in The Complete X-Files? Maybe someone somewhere never got over their initial Melissa feelings, but Melinda was very open and friendly, a lot like her ill-fated character, down to the dress and a crystal dangling from her neck.

Next up, we met Susan Blommaert, so petrifying as Mrs. Paddock in Season 2's "Die Hand Die Verletzt." Blommaert was basically the opposite of her fear-inducing character. She had only the greatest words for Manners, who made his X-Files debut on that episode. "He was fun and he was smart," Susan said. "He let you play with it. But if he needed something else, he would ask for it. One of the best experiences I've ever had." Musser stayed around the second day to meet the other cast members just like we were doing, and even though he and Blommaert were in the same episode, they had never met. Chalk up another cool moment.

Next we went to Rebecca Toolan (Teena Mulder), who quipped that the funniest thing about Manners was his mullet haircut. Her history with him went back long before the show, when he was casting her for another role. (An IMDb search leads me to believe it was 21 Jump Street's Season 4 opener "Draw the Line.") She remembered, "I was going to be late for an audition because I was working on something else. He said, 'If she can't be there on time, I'm not going to cast her.' Then he cast me anyway."

During our last photo ops, Blommaert and McGraw each gave us extra love because they come from families with sisters as well. It was so special to watch Larken sitting at a table and lovingly watching Toolan work her way through her op before they did one together. And Snow sweetly (really, he said it sweetly) deemed us "a couple of nuts" before we got an extra bonus photo because he blinked in the first one. Hey, that's a time-honored Sibling Cinema tactic.

We finally got to take in the amazing props brought by The X-Files Preservation Collection, my X-Fest photo op buddies Jim Thornton and Kelly Anthony. It's really a dazzling array that dutifully shows off all the time and money they've put into it. At some point, Musser went into the room and had a "reunion" with the doll from Season 5's "Chinga" that was sent out over social media almost immediately. I loved the costume pieces from S10's "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster." Can't wait to see how their collection grows from here. It's already beyond any fan's wildest imagination.

Besides not reacting to Haglund when I first saw him, my biggest faux pas of the weekend had to be not bringing Anne Simon's book, The Real Science Behind the X-Files, to be signed when we finally tracked her down as the last name on the yearbook want list. Then again if I had, she would see that I haven't actually read it yet by its pristine condition. We bided our time waiting for her by hanging out with a friend ... and The Enigma. He was nothing like I ever would have expected before this weekend, a genuinely nice guy appreciative of the attention everyone rightfully paid him.

With 14 of 14 in the yearbook, we went off to Karin Konoval's screening. We had seen her a few times throughout the day and in one of our last photo ops, so it was a blast to watch her totally nail the roles of Judy and Chucky in Season 11's "Plus One" with like-minded fans. Her hosting of "Home" had been one of the highlights of X-Fest 1. Despite all the hard work evident on the screen, she deemed it "one of the easiest, most fun things I've ever done. There was no real makeup, just pure acting." What else would Konoval like to do? Well, a musical actually. "It could even be a male singing role," she said. I'll buy that, she would kill it.

Karin compared being on the set to participating in a ballet with the cast and crew being perfect at everything they did. David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) almost undid her with the twinkle in his eye. "He's so subtle," she said. During that week, she filled up her phone with extemporaneous videos in character as Chucky. She proclaimed "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" (aka "Followers") to be her other preference from Season 11, with her favorite character being the vacuum cleaner.

In closing out her session with a story of how X-Files fans got her incorrect birthday changed on Wikipedia while Planet of the Apes fans just sent birthday greetings on the wrong day, she proclaimed the show's fans to be the best. "You guys do rock it out ... in terms of curiosity and support."

So X-Fest 2 was in the books, but there were still a couple of final touches to be made. I ran into Snow outside the hotel as he waited for his car. We talked about what a fantastic time we both had. He extended his hand and we shook, then he kissed me on the cheek. I felt the bristles from his beard for hours afterward.

Then I sat outside with Konoval. She was the last person I saw at the first one, so it seemed fitting the same was true here. We talked about the cause that would get her to fangirl the way we do for her and the show -- orangutans!! Then we discussed other pop-culture conventions and how the last thing she wants to do is charge people ridiculous amounts of money just to meet her and/or get a picture taken. Before we parted, I gave her a couple of names of ones I consider better than others, making sure to reiterate they're not all like the one This Con Life gave us.

As you can see from all the words before this, it wasn't even close.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

X-Files S6E5: The 'land that time (almost) forgot

Sestra Amateur: 

Morris Fletcher is voice-over de l’episode, providing a pretty solid background of our hero, Fox Mulder. Fun fact No. 1: Young Fox was a Trekkie. Fun fact No. 2: Fletcher as Mulder probably would have salvaged Fox's FBI reputation and career. Too bad for Mulder's future we want him back to normal. An incarcerated Mulder-as-Fletcher gets to have some quality time with Captain McDonough-as-Lana Chee, and loses his grip to the point where he actually tries to grab him … her.

Luckily, “Morry” gets called into a meeting with General Wegman where he manages to talk his way out of his arrest. Meanwhile, Scully gets reprimanded, suspended and a date with “Fox,” who seems surprised the real Mulder doesn’t have a bedroom since that’s where his endless boxes of research have been stashed. Then where did Fletcher get busy with Kersh’s secretary in Part 1?

Fox-as-Morris returns to the Fletcher household where his kids shun him and JoAnne tries to kick him out again. Mulder tells the truth to JoAnne, who thinks he’s speaking figuratively -- not literally -- about being a different man. He tries to appeal to her compassionate side, but fails because it’s too early in the episode for everything to work out OK. 

Scully arrives at Mulder’s place and he very quickly gets her on a waterbed, which he moved into his now-cleaned-out bedroom. Dana breaks out the handcuffs, which Fletcher eagerly uses. Once he’s secured to the bedpost (oh, that's why he got a four poster bed) Scully demands the truth at gunpoint. Morris refuses to switch back and claims he doesn’t know how to do it anyway. Fortunately, they get a phone call at that very moment from Fox's source. 

The next morning, “Morris” and JoAnne find some common ground. Later that night, “Mulder” meets his contact in a dive bar. It’s the general! Luckily, it’s the same place where “Morris” took JoAnne for the evening. Fox-as-Fletcher is about to leave when he finds Dana in the parking lot. Too bad JoAnne sees him in the car with “Special Tramp Dana Scully.” 

“Mulder” is trying to leave with the aircraft’s flight data recorder when he sees an upset JoAnne at the bar. Then Morry’s government lackey coworkers enter the watering hole. Fox-as-Fletcher goes back inside and JoAnne throws a drink in his face for his perceived betrayal. Mulder and Fletcher square off in the bathroom. (Or Fletcher and Mulder. Guess that part doesn’t really matter in this scene.) The general also doesn’t want to be spotted by his underlings and hides in the bathroom, where he stumbles across Fletch and Muld. They work together to get Fletcher-as-Fox out with the flight recorder and Fox-as-Fletcher out with … beer.

“Sculder” bounce back home and visit the Lone Gunmen with the flight recorder. “Mulder” is amused by them, so Scully admits he’s not Fox. Surprisingly, they have trouble believing he swapped bodies with Mulder because of a warp in the space-time continuum. So after everything they have seen, they find this hard to believe? Morry taunts them with claims of creating several of their investigated conspiracies. You’d think they would be more livid that Dana allowed such a major security breach into their inner sanctum. Scully gets everyone back on the same page. 

Meanwhile, new victims are outside Area 51 when the warbling craft appears overhead and splices together one kissing couple in front of their friend, Sam. At least they’re not embedded in rock, right? And why is the government still flying that thing? Dana meets Fox (in Fletcher’s body, but they’re not showing that now) and she has dire news about changing him back into his old self. Even worse, Morry-as-Mulder is Assistant Director Kersh’s new golden boy and Scully is no longer an FBI agent. 

Dana, proving looks do matter, refuses to kiss Fox because she doesn’t think Morry is attractive. Sam flags down one of Fletcher’s coworkers and learns the spliced couple somehow unspliced themselves – and are acting as though nothing weird happened to them. The next morning “Sculder” drive past the gas station that burned down last episode, but it looks perfectly fine now. So is the gas station attendant, who is alive, intact and also not remembering what happened. And now it’s time for Captain McDonough and Lana Chee to revert back to form.

“Sculder” show up at the Fletcher residence where “Morris” is loading up the U-Haul and JoAnne is yelling, as usual. The real Morry finally steps up and convinces JoAnne it’s really him in Mulder’s body. Too bad Fletcher’s coworkers arrive and again arrest him for treason. They head back to Area 51 … and things reset themselves to the moment the body swap occurred. On the upside, Scully didn’t get suspended and fired and Kersh’s secretary didn’t have sex with “Mulder.” But the spliced-together dime and penny from the gas station that Scully left at FBI Headquarters are still … together. If the incident never happened, then how does she have evidence of it? Begin your time-travel explanations now!

Sestra Professional:

OK, so if things had to be in the path when the continuum swung back around, then that should explain why the dime/penny didn't revert. Since Sculder were where they were, everything they were involved in did reverse itself. Except that the coinage probably should be part of "everything." I wish the warp would regress me so I could forget my point. The two-parter definitely winds up being a hot mess, but at least it's a fun one. 

What "Dreamland II" does have going for it is an extension of the themes first offered in Gilligan's script for "Small Potatoes" (Season 4, Episode 20). Someone else has taken over Mulder's life and started getting a lot more use from it than our hero does. So basically he's living the dream.

The three-headed writing team of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz deliver the best voiceover we've had to date. (Now I'm kind of picturing them melded into each other like that unfortunate couple outside Area 51.) Anyway, Fletcher-as-Fox details the biggest kick in the slats Mulder ever had -- the disappearance of his sister. He bemoans the fact that Fox pissed away a brilliant career and now "lives his life shaking his fist at the sky and muttering about conspiracies to anyone that will listen." It's really a dead-on piece of writing that encapsulates why this two-parter should exist, accurately recapping the back story of one of our leads while not ignoring his foibles.

Looks like we're up fudge creek: Last episode, Captain McDonough-as-Lana Chee made an indelible impression by detailing the aircraft's failings to the general. This time around, she steals the scene by dissing her neighboring cellmate with extremely inventive putdowns and a well-aimed flick of a cigarette. All hail Julia Vera for her complete dismissal of the "desk monkey" that "Lana" was incarcerated with. In normal circumstances, she would be an easy call for guest-star kudos. But this is Michael McKean's episode, so "Grandma Top Gun" will have to be content with just returning to her character's normal body.

So Mulder did a fairly convincing job as Fletcher, at least at work. Even in someone else's body, he's better at the gig than he is with his personal life. He tap danced out of trouble with his co-workers with quick answers for his behavior pretty deftly, too bad Morry's wife isn't as gullible. 

Maybe I like to read The New York Times backwards: Meanwhile Morry's fixed up Fox's cave to a respectable level. By the way, that apartment number, 42? Who else thought of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with that number being the answer to the ultimate question of life, universe and everything? The money shot, of course, is getting to see our boy in his original, hunky form on the waterbed with gorgeous Scully courtesy of the mirror on the ceiling. Frankly, that one shot's sexier than any smooch we have or may see in the future. 

Glad Dana finally finally saw through all Faux Morry. Her strident response of "'Baby' me and you'll be peeing through a catheter" was worth the long, long wait for her eyes to be opened. It had to be fun for Gillian Anderson to take the upper hand after rolling her eyes for more than one episode. 

So all that's left after that is for John Gillnitz -- the writing team, not the dinner theater actor Morry tapped to play Saddam Hussein -- to try to work their way out of the mess. We get some more mirror tricks in the can with Real and Faux Mulder. We can tell the tide is turning because our leads are starting to get more quips than McKean. David Duchovny perfectly utters the game, "So you're the guy who wants my life? I assume that means all the ass kickings." This episode may exist because the trifecta had a lot of great lines they wanted to make use of. 

Trust me, little man, I ain't him: I shouldn't forget about the little side trip to The Lone Gunmen, for we could not have McKean in two episodes without playing him up against them. Last episode, David Duchovny and McKean went all Marx Brothers in the bedroom mirror. Here, the Man in Black takes The Three Stooges down a few pegs most of the stories the Gunmen have published in their newsletter were thought up by Morris when he was in the can. 

Dana sort of voices my concerns about the resolution of this episode. If they tried to recreate the event that caused the body switch but were off by a millisecond, Fox would end up with his end in a rock ... instead of up his bum where it usually is. I guess time springing back is just as good an outcome as can be expected. Except for the coin (and, spoiler alert,) the waterbed. 

Meta mixtures: The Little A'Le'Inn, while an unwieldy name, is an actual establishment in Rachel, Nevada. ... On Saturday Night Live, McKean played Cigarette-Smoking Man in a skit when Duchovny hosted the show on May 13 1995. ... There quite a few righteous bloopers from this episode, including McKean bumping into a cameraman while doing the jig in Fox's apartment and Anderson's early line delivery in the Lone Gunmen scene. ... And add Planet of the Apes to the pop-culture references made this season with Scully's quip, "I'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly." Although I might take issue with the possibility of Dana actually knowing that line. ... Vera wore elaborate makeup to play the 75-year-old Hopi woman. According to the official episode guide, she thought she won the role because of the speech patterns she learned during her stint in the Army.

Guest star of the week: Gilligan credited McKean for the episodes' successes. "Everything we was, we owe to Michael McKean," he said in The Complete X-Files. "We wrote some funny lines, but that was the extent of our input into it. He really just made the character come alive and was so watchable and so charismatic despite being such a shit." So good, in fact, that we'll see him again someday. Unless time snaps back before then, of course.