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The X-Files - Plus One & The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat - Review



My apologies for having to play a bit of catch up, but let’s look at the last two episodes of The X-Files. “Plus One” was written by Chris Carter and directed by Kevin Hooks, and for me, this felt like an old time horror episode – with the added bonus that we get Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) back in each other’s arms! “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” was written and directed by Darin Morgan. This episode slots right into those quirky episodes with a good dose of meta thrown in. Not gonna lie – I loved the political commentary in this one!

“Plus One” is about a creepy set of twins – who are both played by the wonderful Karin Konoval!!! And I had no idea she was both Judy and Chuckie until I checked the credits. Did you figure it out? If she looked familiar – at least as Judy! – it’s because she’s been on the show twice before in seasons 3 and 4. I just can’t say enough about the fantastic performance she gives here – as “Little Judy” and as “Demon Judy” and then as Chuckie. Talk about range!

The “gimmick” in the episode is that people start seeing themselves and their doppleganger then kills them. Mulder and Scully get involved when Arkie Seavers (Jared Ager-Foster) manages to escape from an horrific car crash alive. This, of course, leads to the classic debate between Mulder and Scully of the supernatural versus science. I can’t help but feel given the current ridiculous debates over climate change and the scientific method that the X-Files have never been a more pertinent show!

Scully is prepared to write Arkie off as drug-addled or possibly schizophrenic, but Mulder points out that Arkie’s just too stupid to make it up. Mulder and Scully go to the local Asylum and consult with Dr Russel (Denise Dowse) about the other victims. Her opinion is that it’s some kind of outbreak. Mulder – always blessed with ADD – notices Judy and insists on speaking with her because he wants to see her drawings.

It turns out that they are all hangman games that she plays psychically with Chuckie – and ultimately, it’s how they target their victims. They find a picture of Arkie – who was alive and well in the jail when they left him. Judy denies any knowledge of him but suggests that “she” might know, pointing at an empty chair – her own evil doppleganger.

Mulder and Scully go to check in to the local motel, only to find there’s only one room left – luckily it’s a suite with a nice foldout couch for Mulder… Scully is startled awake by Mulder looming over her bed. Arkie is dead. Arkie ends up dead in his cell – strangled by his own belt while handcuffed. His lawyer – Dean Cavalier (Ben Wilkinson) – insists that Arkie didn’t want to die.

Scully scoffs at Mulder insisting that Judy – or her evil twin – could have had anything to do with it. Mulder determines that Chuckie is suspect number 2 and goes to confront him at his house. I loved Chuckie going on about Mulder’s “tasty little red head!” We see that Chuckie is a hoarder, and it’s also hilarious that after Chuckie tells Mulder to find what he wants, he tells him, “I’m an FBI Agent, not an archeologist!” Turns out that Chuckie is also talking to an invisible friend.

Scully goes to see Judy again, and this time encounters “demon-Judy.” The nurses (Alison Araya and Lossen Chambers) are hilarious as they keep refusing to go in with Scully. It’s also pretty funny watching Judy lob pudding at Scully. Judy gets under Scully’s skin by suggesting she is old and past her prime – not to mention child-bearing. Judy ends by threatening Scully.

Back at the motel, Mulder tells Scully about the “queerest little man in the queerest little house” who also has hangman games all over. Scully is now wondering about psychic transference while Mulder is insisting on ghosts. Somewhat out of the blue – and out of character – Scully asks Mulder if he thinks she’s old. Mulder insists that she’s “still got some scoot in her boot!” It’s a funny question to ask when it’s been clear that Mulder wasn’t at all concerned about having to share a room with Scully and would have happily shared the bed with her too!

Meanwhile Dean Cavalier draws the twin’s anger by telling the paper that the boy’s death was supernatural. Chuckie isn’t going to let him point the finger at him, so he starts a hangman game with Judy. Mulder drops back in to see Chuckie to figure out how he does it. He’s figured out that Chuckie picks them at the jail.

Scully goes back to find “little Judy” is back. Judy is upset that Scully is mad, but Scully tells her that she is mad because Judy has the power to influence lives and she wants to stop the killing. Scully asks her not to play with her brother, but Judy wants to know what she’d do all day then? Hilariously, she tells Scully, she’d “go mad!” Judy gives her “protective pills” that the nurses tell her is made out of bread. There’s nothing special about them, but the nurses take them to be safe! And later, we see scientific Scully give in to her less skeptical side and take them too!

Cavalier starts seeing himself and goes to Mulder and Scully. Scully tells him that it’s his paranoia and sends him home – where he has an unusual number of things with which to kill himself! He manages to get everything out of the house except his samurai swords… Even Scully has a hard time seeing this as suicide!

Meanwhile, Scully insists that Judy and Chuckie are simply mentally ill, but Mulder insists that there is a dark influence at work. He insists that we all have a dark side that we repress. Scully, ever the scientist, insists that there is no real “evil.” Though she does admit to still sleeping with her back to the door to avoid the devil – which is a fun link to the next episode.

Once again, Mulder startles Scully away to tell her about Chavalier. As they are leaving the crime scene, Scully sees her own double. Once they are back in the motel, Scully startles awake again, but there’s no one there. She returns the favor by startling Mulder awake. She admits that something about the case is getting under her skin, and she asks him to hold her.

Scully crawls in with Mulder – and weren’t we all hoping/waiting for this?! She wants to know what happens when they get old and retire. Mulder promises he’ll always be around – but didn’t we start off the reboot with them both out of the FBI and estranged? This is better, so we’ll handwave that. Scully is still worried Mulder would prefer someone younger who could give him kids – William was a miracle after all. Mulder insists that she’s a woman of science – and possibly should see that she still has choices.

        Scully worries that the world is going to hell – and in another item ripped from the headlines, Mulder agrees what with the President trying to bring down the FBI… (love it!). Scully worries about what they’d do if they lost their jobs, and Mulder insists they’d find something… leading to a knowing little smile from Scully…. And sex!

Mulder gets up for a drink and sees his own double. But not before we get that really self-satisfied grin from him...Judy and Chuckie are targeting both of them now – and as it turns out they are jealous! Whether it’s the pills or Scully telling her double it’s evil incarnate, it seems to leave her alone, while Mulder fights his double at Chuckie’s. In the end, Judy and Chuckie kill each other. Mulder also finds two hangman games with Mom and Dad as the answer – and there was a passing reference to their parents having died by hanging…

The episode ends very satisfyingly with Scully initially putting off Mulder’s advances for a little more time between the sheets and then ultimately joining him! I loved this case and loved seeing the two back together in every sense. Kudos once again to Konoval for a remarkable performance. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

While every episode has a thread of quirky humor in it – and who doesn’t love Mulder’s turn of phrase – “The Lost Are of Forehead Sweat” is definitely one of the more quirky episodes – full of commentary on the show and current events. I thought the episode was a bit uneven, but there was also plenty to love in it. I’m going to structure this part of the review a little differently than I normally do, so let me know how you like it as I break down the episode into what I liked and didn’t like….

What I Liked:

I loved the opening Twilight Zone (make that The Dusky Realm – a play on Chris Carter’s unsuccessful Harsh Realm perhaps?) in black and white. I always love seeing Alex Diakun (Buddy/Devil)! It’s a terrific homage and really felt like it could have been a Twilight Zone episode.

Scully calling Mulder who is dressed in a “grass” suit because he’s been out hunting Sasquatch as a relief from the unrelenting bad news. I am totally with Mulder in being exhausted by spending the last year watching the news and worrying… Later in the episode when Mulder is looking at his giant evidence board, he finally just loses it because there world is even too crazy for him to be able to follow the conspiracies!

The entire discussion of memory and nostalgia and it’s super meta relationship to the show was fantastic – I adore this kind of thing! And it’s especially topical given all the reboots and revivals around these days – it’s not just The X-Files. So how do we judge whether our memory of something is making it better than it ever really was?

Mulder tearing apart his video collection looking for the lost episode – and his offence at Scully suggesting the episode might have been The Outer Limits is hysterical. I also loved that Scully’s favorite childhood memory was Goop-o A.B.C. – not hard to see Jell-o there is it? And I remember that stuff that used to come out in layers! Scully’s comment that only the strawberry was any good because the lemon-lime tasted like “leprechaun taint” was also hilarious!

Also hilarious? Mulder’s memory of watching the episode as an 8 year old with his adult head CGI’d on!

In the end, this circles back to the nostalgia questions. Scully doesn’t want to eat it once she’s made it because she’s afraid that it won’t taste the same and she wants to remember it how it was. There are definitely people saying that about this revival…

I liked the banter about whether this was a conspiracy or just people with faulty memories. And of course, Mulder’s bizarre insistence that it could be a parallel universe – “it’s science!” and Scully shutting him down that it’s theoretical at best – and Reggie Something (Brian Huskey) and Scully both finally shouting at him. Then there was the Mendela/Megele debate and the debate over Orwell/Orsen Wells.

Dr Thaddeus Q They is played by Stuart Margolin – and that is one of the things I loved about the episode in and of itself! Reggie has found footage of They on the Darknet – and the use of “They” as his name because of the “they” that are out to get us is also brilliant. According to the Darknet, They is able to manipulate collective memory – and this feeds into the entire question of nostalgia but also goes into larger questions – and I like how the episode can be harsh with itself and criticize current events.

Mulder meets with They at the laughing statues – a really famous installation in Vancouver – and hilarious when you stop to consider who the joke is on here. They shames Mulder for not knowing about him – the biggest conspiracy of them all! He also explains his newest project: fake news! He presents real news but in such a way that no one believes it! He also tells Mulder that his time is over because we are living in a post-conspiracy world! A world where no one can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. And the irony fairly drips off the episode at this point… Of course, this also circles back to the nostalgia question. Are we just too jaded for The X-Files now?

Loved the montage that put Reggie in the show. Reggie maintains that he saw an Alien in Grenada, dropped out of medical school, joined the FBI, and started the X-Files! He maintains that he was Mulder’s partner even before Scully! I loved seeing the credits with him added in and then all the great touchstones – Bruckman (Peter Boyle), Tooms (Doug Hutchinson), Eddie Van Blundht (Darin Morgan) and especially Mrs Peacock – Karin Konoval again!!!

Scully, of course, uncovers a very different story. She’s found that Reggie “Murgatroyd” (The cartoon character Snagglepuss used to say “Heavens to Murgatroyd” – if it sounded familiar!) got his GED after dropping out of high school, worked for the postal service, the IRS – in witness protection, joined the CIA after 911, worked at the Pentagon, and his longest job was with the NSA where he listened in on Mulder and Scully! Mulder concludes that Reggie was just trying to join a team that was still fighting for truth and justice!

Mulder wants to know what their final case was together, and this is also a great scene. Reggie tells him that they found out the truth! We get another ridiculous scene with a ridiculous looking alien – all the alien scenes were hilarious. This time the Alien (Keith Arbuthnot) has come to return Earth’s playlist (LOL!) and to give Mulder a book: “All the Answers.” What will Mulder do with no questions left? Apparently have a tantrum! The Alien also wants nothing further to do with humanity. I adored the Alien essentially quoting Trump about the wall they would be erecting! Alien… get it?

Mulder is upset that they’ve learned they aren’t alone in the universe – but no one likes them. Is this a comment on the show being criticized for not living up to expectations or a comment on how the rest of the world may be currently viewing America? Whichever, the scene ends in a group hug.

The final scene with Reggie has Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) entering the parking garage and seeing Reggie – who he recognizes – how??? – being driven back to the asylum. And did you catch the Easter egg? It’s the Spotnitz Sanitarium that he’s off to! Frank Spotnitz was an executive producer from 1996-2002 and also on The Lone Gunmen, Harsh Realm, and Millenium!

What I didn’t Love:

Reggie was rather annoying. I like that the show still tries to keep us off kilter, but at times, the plot was a little hard to follow and a bit thin. In fact, if I had a complaint about the season so far, it’s that the episodes often don’t seem as tightly written as they could be. Is Reggie insane? Seems likely… but I wanted a bit of certainty too. It’s one thing to include social commentary, but it lacks a bit of sting if it’s all cloaked in comedy on a normally serious show. And this is one of the complaints that I also have with Supernatural. While both shows can do comedy, drama, and horror well, for me, the comedy always takes me out of the show enough that I never quite get back to that full suspension of disbelief for the drama and horror. It’s impossible for me to take the show entirely seriously.

What did you think of the two episodes? What did you love/hate? For the record, I do love both of the final pictures in this review! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!





 
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