season 3, episode 20, “jose chung’s from outer space”
“the x-files” goes into full on parody mode with this exceptional episode. from the genius mind of darin morgan we get an episode of sci-fi television that has never been done before. jose chung says he is inventing a new literary genre, the non-fiction science fiction and morgan is giving us a new genre of sci-fi tv, the satirical science fiction procedural drama. morgan began in “humbug” with the concept of “the x-files” poking fun at itself. it’s a testament to the producers and the writers that they took it and ran with it. and it was never heavy handed, either. it was always done in moderation and done really well. they became like these nice little treats during each season that is wrought with so much drama. apparently it was like that for the cast and crew, too. gillian anderson said this episode was like “dessert […] that’s what kept it fun and that’s what kept it worth doing all the time.” same goes for the audience, i believe.
the use of parody and camp is staggering. i’m amazed they could fit so much outlandishness in one episode. not that any of it makes sense, nor are we supposed to be able to follow the story. it’s not about the narrative. it’s about turning the microscope on itself and examining their own cliches and then using them to their advantage. it makes the audience feel like they are in on the joke. mulder is usually the butt of morgan’s jokes, but scully gets her fair share here, too. one witness describes her as “disguised as a woman, but wasn’t pulling it off. like her hair was red, but a little too red, you know?” then he goes on to depict mulder as a “mandroid” with a face “so blank and expressionless. he didn’t even seem human.” these were both things talked about by the critics and public. scully’s red hair and david duchovny’s trademark deadpan delivery.
not only are the main characters spoofed, but many of the shows themes and plots are fodder for morgan, as well. the shows central mythology plays with the uncertainty of what happened to agent scully. was she abducted by aliens or the government? the case in this episode is equally and comically unclear. one of the victims goes through two hypnosis sessions. in one she says it was aliens and in the other she says it was a group of men. some of the usual tropes used in “the x-files” are used here, like men in black, an alien autopsy, and a downed UFO. but, as in most darin morgan scripts, nothing is as it seems. the man in black is alex trebek, the alien is a pilot wearing a costume, the crashed UFO only an experimental military craft. the only thing that actually is what it appears to be is lord frickin’ kinbote, but, alas, we never get any substantiated proof on that besides roky’s account of him in screenplay format.
a darin morgan script wouldn’t be complete without some profound existential observations. jose chung says that “truth is as subjective as reality.” what better show to explore that concept with than “the x-files.” in “731” we have mulder and scully seeing the same “truth” but coming to completely different explanations about it. in “jose chung” the actual accounts of the events are subjective to everyone involved and no one’s story is the same. but, they each believe their own accounts to be factual. lieutenant jack schaefer tells mulder, “i am absolutely positive” i was abducted by aliens and then in the same breath, “i can’t be absolutely sure that it happened.” and for added effect, “i don’t know if these mashed potatoes are really here.” this is in mulder’s version of the truth. jose chung said that the cook at the diner never saw lieutenant schaefer that night only mulder coming in and eating a whole sweet potato pie and asking cliched questions. we even have mulder and scully in the same room and they have totally different stories about what went on. mulder sees the men in black and scully says she doesn’t even recall mulder coming to her room. it’s making fun of scully always conveniently missing out on the visible proof.
mulder pleads with jose chung to not publish his book. “you will perform a disservice to a field of inquiry that has always struggled for respectability.” this after an entire episode lampooning that very field of inquiry and making the people that search for the truth out to be “foolish.” in the end, mulder only has his hope that something is out there. he has no answers, he has no proof. he can’t even tell jose chung what happened to those kids. this is kind of the ultimate joke of the show. they can investigate and investigate, but they will almost always end up with a “how the hell should i know” conclusion. jose chung summarizes the many views of the people involved in the case in his book. his final impression of agent mulder does accurately describe him: “a ticking time bomb of insanity; his quest into the unknown has so warped his psyche, one shudders to think how he receives any pleasures from life.” thank goodness for scully, “noble of spirit and pure of heart,” to keep that bomb from exploding.
gillian anderson sounds like she might’ve had a cold during the filming of this episode. she sounds a little nasally.
even the name jose chung is a contradiction. jose + chung = old white dude? okaaaay…
i had mulder reading in the library in “grotesque” and now i have scully, that “brainy beauty,” fangirling over a novelist. are they trying to kill me?
scully disapproves of chung’s capitalism. she’s so wholesome.
that girls clothes are on inside out, not inside out and backwards. that always bothered me.
the donut box is from ‘tim hornets.’ a play on the canadian chain, ‘tim horton’s.’
scully is so embarrassed about the released autopsy video. it makes me think of how she kept trying to be off camera in “x cops.”
i love how scully is 100% done with the case the entire time.
the scene where mulder is reading from roky’s script looking for answers and then comes across the introduction of lord kinbote and his embarrassed look to scully is priceless. she just lays on the bed bored out of her mind.
jose chung calls scully “kind-hearted” for referring to roky as having a “fantasy prone personality” when he was clearly nuts. scully goes on to tell chung that mulder has “his share of peculiar notions” and is one who is “not inclined to dismiss anything outright” and then proceeds to tell mulder he’s nuts in the flashback. she will defend mulder’s peculiarities to anyone else, but is perfectly fine with telling him he’s crazy to his face. it’s kind of sweet, actually.
i love how blaine just keeps yelling out “roswell!”
did you know? behind the scenes facts:
detective manners’ “colorful phraseology” is modeled after director kim manners’ famous profanity.
blaine faulkner is wearing a “space: above and beyond” shirt. former writers, glen morgan and james wong left “the x-files” to create that show.
the name of the alien, lord kinbote, is a reference to charles kinbote, the unreliable and probably insane narrator of vladimir nabokov’s ‘pale fire’.
mulder’s character in jose chung’s book is renard muldrake. renard is french for fox.
references to “humbug” and “clyde bruckman”: the tagline on the alien autopsy video says, “truth or humbug?” the autopsy tape is narrated by the stupendous yappi.
repeatedly by several characters: “this is not happening.” even by an alien. thank you, darin morgan.
MIB: “your scientific illiteracy makes me shudder.”
blaine faulkner: “i hate this town. i hate people. i just want to be taken away where i don’t have to worry about finding a job.” you and me both, brother.
blaine faulkner: “i didn’t spend all those years playing dungeons and dragons and not learn a little something about courage.” great fucking line.
lt. jack schaefer: “you ever flown a flying saucer? afterwards, sex seems trite.”
m: “ever seen a UFO in these parts? you ever experience a period of missing time? have you ever had the suspicion you’ve been abducted by aliens? have you ever found a metal implant in your body? have you checked everywhere?”
s: “they just found your bleepin’ UFO.”
chrissy: “love. is that all you men think about?”
jose chung: “then there are those who care not about extraterrestrials, searching for meaning in other human beings. rare or lucky are those who find it for although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways, on this planet, we are all alone.”