July 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The X-Files “The Lost Art Of Forehead Sweat”

Mulder, Scully, and Reggie discuss the Mandela Effect. Or the Mengele Effect. One of them.

Alright, one more Darin Morgan-scripted episode for the road, and my God, did he go out on a good one.

The Case:  The Mandela Effect!

The Rest:  Darin Morgan’s episodes tend to be more comedic than anything else, but this one here is probably his most broadly funny.  The only real competition is season ten’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” another episode that basically played with the show’s basic concepts for comedic purposes.  And while that episode went for some absurdity that even the true believer Fox Mulder had a hard time understanding, this one here shows Mulder having a childhood flashback where it’s his adult head grafted onto a child’s body as he watches what he claims was the first episode of The Twilight Zone, only as an adult, he can’t find the episode on his DVDs or old VHS tapes.  Having seen the episode play out in the cold open, I think it’s safe to say it’s not part of The Twilight Zone because it’s a mishmash of some of the more famous episodes done by present day actors.

But then in comes Reggie Somebody, a sweaty guy who can’t remember his own name but claims he started the X-Files before They used some sort of system that causes mass groups of people to forget things to erase his existence even from his old partners Mulder and Scully.

Also, knowing the “bad guy” for this episode that Mulder goes to talk to at one point is literally named “Dr. They” makes for some nice moments when I realize how often Reggie was naming the bad guy.  Anyway, Reggie claims that whatever They is up to leads to what Mulder and Scully refer to as the Mandela Effect but Reggie insists is the Mengele Effect.  Whatever it is called, it basically amounts to the idea that people just remember things that aren’t exactly what they were, like Mulder’s Twilight Zone episode that doesn’t exist or Scully’s memories of a Jell-O like desert that most assuredly is not Jell-O but sure sounds like Jell-O.

Whether or not Reggie is on the level, the episode never really says.  And, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter.  The episode redoes the opening credits and older episodes with Reggie digitally inserted into them, and that’s pretty damn funny.  But then Scully finds a history of the guy that is nothing like what he claims it to be, that he basically bounced around from government job to government job, the scene showing he was always in the same cubicle with a different department seal on the wall whether he was sorting the mail, giving viscous mobsters new identities through witness protection, accidentally drone striking an overseas wedding, or waterboarding a terror suspect, and that also makes sense.  But then just after the guys from a mental institution come to take away the guy Scully identified as Reginald Murgatroid away, Skinner comes by with a line that will always make me laugh:  “Where the hell are they taking Reggie?”

The episode also suggests a way to show how the threesome could possibly still all disagree.  One the subject of the Mandela/Mengele Effect, Scully goes hard science with misremembered memories, Reggie says Dr. They (who, remember,  is real and attended the largest ever presidential inauguration for one Donald J. Trump) did it, and Mulder keeps insisting on parallel dimensions that cause both Scully and Reggie to snap at him.  Would I want to see more of Reggie?  Well, no.  He’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick.

That said, I couldn’t help but notice how this show maybe got a little more political than it usually does.  I mentioned the crowd size for the Trump inauguration, and this episode also has two young FBI agents who seems to speak in a manner that could have come directly from Trump’s Twitter account, and when the episode nears its end and Reggie recounts how the three of them did meet a real alien who gave them the secrets to, well, everything (Mulder, distraught that there are no more mysteries to solve with that knowledge, is really upset), the alien then goes on to essentially recite Trump’s own campaign launch speech where he had some, let’s say, controversial words to say about Mexican migrants, only this alien is referring to humans in general, and he promises to build a big, beautiful wall to keep humans confined to their own solar system.

But in the end, it does seem as if the answer here was that Scully was right.  It is about just misremembering things when Mulder finds the missing episode was really from a later knock-off series…though Scully’s desert was a real thing.  Huh.

Up next, the return (?) of William.