season 4, episode 13, “never again”
i find it hard to review this episode knowing that it was intended to air before “leonard betts.” when placed after the cancer reveal, scully’s actions take on completely different meaning. “leonard betts” was moved up in rotation to get the super bowl viewers. i agree, that was a good move. “leonard betts” is an excellent episode and is a good starter episode for a new viewer. “never again” would require a little more background knowledge of the characters, thus isolating the newbies. at the end of “leonard betts” we learn that scully has cancer. in “never again” she lashes out at mulder and feels the need to rebel against him and the x-files. it makes sense considering her emotional state. now what if “never again” takes place first? it puts so much more weight on her restless mood. it makes mulder the potential reason for her disposition.
i have to look at it how it happened, not how it was intended. scully has learned that she most likely has cancer. she’s probably dealing with thoughts of how she got it, remembering the MUFON women from season three’s “nisei.” they claimed to be abducted and to have seen scully in “the place.” they all had had implants removed from the back of their necks. they were dying of cancer. i’m sure all of this information is weighing on her mind and is causing her to feel a little resentful of the x-files and of mulder. she wouldn’t have had cancer if not for this quest for the truth. it’s not totally founded, she wanted to be a part of it, but it’s natural to have those feelings, i’m sure.
every relationship, romantic or not (god forbid), has these ups and downs. where every little thing the other person does is irritating or you look for reasons to pick a fight, when you’re really projecting the turmoil you have within yourself. i’ve done it plenty of times. i’m aggravated with myself in someway, let’s see if i can inadvertently lay blame on someone else. scully picks a fight with mulder and he takes the bait. granted, some of her grievances are legitimate. why doesn’t she have a desk? i have to side with mulder on this. he makes a good point with that battleship retort. on the other side, mulder is treating her like he’s her superior giving her assignments and tasks to do while he’s gone on a mandatory vacation. mulder gets pissy back at her and she recognizes what she’s doing and tries to explain her feelings. “it isn’t about you or maybe it is, indirectly, i don’t know. i feel like i’ve lost sight of myself, mulder. it’s hard to see let alone find in the darkness of covert locations. i wish i could say we were going in circles, but we’re not. we’re going in an endless line, two steps forward and three steps back. while my own life is standing still.” she tries to articulate the reasons for her attitude. he suggests that maybe time apart is good. i think, on the surface, that’s what she wants to hear and thinks she needs and maybe she does need it, but i think deep down she wanted more of a reaction from him, for him to confirm that he needs her, that she’s not just his glorified assistant helping his crusade. but, so often our partners in life will not say or do the exact thing we want them to. in fact, very rarely does that happen and that can cause more friction before it has a chance of getting better.
as a shipper, this scene is super difficult to get through and mulder comes off as kind of a dick. he’s just so clueless. he doesn’t see that she needs some validation and he gets defensive. “do what you want. never mind that i worked my ass off to get these files re-opened. you were just assigned. this is my life.” she replies with “and it has become mine.” here’s where the cancer signification becomes relevant. it has become her life so completely as to consume her entirely. he is surprised. “don’t you want it to be?” he’s thinking why has she stayed through everything they’ve been through if she didn’t want to. that’s when she realizes that she was projecting on to him, even though he deserves some of it. it’s hard to watch people that you know have a deep love and understanding for each other totally misjudge their situation.
mulder takes his required vacation and scully does the assignment mulder gave her, seething the whole time, but completing the task. mulder calls to check in. i can’t tell if it is to micromanage her background check or because her behavior before he left concerned him. i think it’s a bit of both. i also wonder why he cut his vacation short. is it because she implied she had a date or is it because he felt she abandoned his assignment? again, it might be a combination.
scully lets loose and it’s nice to see. she’s wound so tight and so reserved all the time, you can see what a release it is for her to have a personal conversation with another adult that isn’t about work or aliens. mulder is so consumed by his passion that when they do have personal exchanges it’s usually in the middle of them uncovering a conspiracy or trying to solve a horrific case. her date with ed is just what it is. two people connecting and getting to know a little bit about each other. rarely do mulder and scully have this with out all the other stuff clouding it. that might be a bit of what scully was trying to explain to mulder. that her life is standing still in the midst of all the chaos that is the x-files and she needs to have these real moments, these normal moments.
but, this is “the x-files” and ed is no normal guy. he’s is experiencing auditory hallucinations from a certain substance used in the ink on his new tattoo. “betty” the bombshell on his bicep has been taunting him and pressuring him to commit murder. he talks scully into getting a tattoo and she gets a little bit of the laced ink, but not enough to cause delusions. scully goes up to ed’s apartment. “betty” is jealous and he tells ed not to do anything with scully. ed rebels against betty, just as scully is rebelling against mulder and the x-files. let’s see what happens when i defy this controlling voice, they think. well, it doesn’t end well, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have happened. maybe scully needed this. maybe mulder needed this, too. it kind of forces both of them to reevaluate the importance of the other in their lives.
mulder is irritated with scully’s actions. it’s a bit of jealousy and confusion as to why she did what she did. he’s not shy about making her feel bad about it. poor scully comes into the office with her head held high. mulder makes his insensitive jokes and doesn’t really realize what this situation has meant to their partnership until he stops himself from saying something. scully tells him, “not everything is about you, mulder. this is my life.” and he says, “yes, but it’s–” he catches himself. does he realize that what he was about to say sounds selfish, after all, or is he afraid that he will reveal too much of his feelings, even if those feelings are so deep down, he’s not quite aware of them yet. the camera dollies back in silence to a wide shot with so much space between them and a deep shadow cast over them.
how great is it that jodie fucking foster is the voice of the tattoo. clarice starling was a major inspiration for the character of scully, so to have her on an episode is wonderful.
the list of russian names mulder hands scully has “yakoff smirnoff” on it. he’s the name of a really cheesy stand up comedian from the 80s. so happy that i caught that little nugget.
i like the rocky and bullwinkle references, but i’m wondering if i’m missing a layer of meaning in its reference. i don’t see scully and mulder’s partnership like the cartoon characters at all. or maybe i’m looking too hard. that wouldn’t be a stretch considering the word count of this review already.
the dried rose petal bit was nice. i like how she places it on the desk trying to claim a little bit of it for herself. when mulder comes back from vacation he nervously looks around the office as he tries to contact her at the hotel and he glances at the petal on the desk.
gillian anderson never ceases to amaze me with her incredible acting abilities. she perfectly embodies someone who rarely gets that kind of attention from a guy and finds herself suddenly at the center of it. and when she calls ed to ask him if he wants to go on the date after all, she is so real in her awkwardness. as an aside, i wonder if she called ed because of mulder’s crass reaction to her possibly having a date or did she intend to all along?
mulder goes to graceland for his “spiritual” pilgrimage. he wears some killer elvis shades and does a little elvis move and it is delightful.
scully’s orgasmic reaction to getting the tattoo. what a little minx.
oh, scully, why a tramp stamp? and such an ugly one?
did you know? behind the scenes facts:
quentin tarantino was supposed to direct this epsiode, but he couldn’t because he wasn’t a member of the DGA yet.
i guess it bodes well that they have a bit of a lover’s tiff, even if they aren’t lovers…yet.
mulder tells scully in the beginning that his trip is personal, then he calls scully and tells her, “i wanted to share it with you.” ok, mulder, that kind of makes up for being an arse earlier, but too little, too late, buddy.
m: “we’ll put ’em really close together, face to face… maybe we could play some battleship!”
s: “your contact, while interesting in the context of science fiction, was, at least in my memory, recounting a poorly veiled synopsis of an episode of rocky and bullwinkle.”
s: “sometimes i wish i were that impulsive.”
s: “i don’t go out very much.” this quote is so sad knowing what her life is.
s: “the last time i went on a date it was to see glengarry glen ross and i think the characters had a better time than i did.”
s: “it feels different and i don’t know how i feel about that.”
betty: “you kiss her and she’s dead.”
m: “congratulations on making a personal appearance in the x-files for a second time.”
m: “i was thinking of having an NY tattooed on my ass to commemorate the yankees’ world series victory.” what a dick.
m: “all this because i didn’t get you a desk?” so clueless.