Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The X-Files S1:E17 "E.B.E."

[ S1:E16 "Young at Heart" <<< Season 1 >>> S1:E18 "Miracle Man" ]

The most tantalizing aspect of the infamous Roswell crash in 1947 wasn't the implication that an alien spacecraft crash-landed in New Mexico, and that the government scooped up the wreckage and then denied that it ever happened. The most tantalizing aspect was the rumor that one or more alien pilots were recovered from the crash, and sent to a top secret government facility (now famous Area 51). Alien technology is one thing - and it would be an exciting discovery on its own - but the thought that the government actually holds presumably intelligent extraterrestrial biological entities (E.B.E.s) - whether dead or alive - somewhere here on this Earth, is tantalizing, and a little bit chilling.

The events of this episode - which I recall as being one of the standout episodes of the first season - are initiated when an Iraqi pilot shoots down a UFO, and its contents are recovered by the U.S. military. With copious help from his informant (Deep Throat probably appears as much in this episode as he has in the whole season so far), Mulder tracks the shipment as it makes its way to its final, top secret destination. This episode features a number of firsts - the first time Mulder shines a light in his window to communicate with his informant, the first explicit acknowledgement by Scully of Deep Throat's existence and questionable reliability, and the first appearance of fan favorite recurring characters The Lone Gunmen (Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund, and Tom Braidwood)!

But the true excitement of this episode stems from the sense of danger that accompanies the investigation of something that your higher ups don't want you investigating (when you're an FBI agent, and you're the one that's being bugged, you know something's up), as well as the anticipation of what it is that's being covered up, and how close you'll be able to get to it. There is also the paranoia and confusion that stems from not knowing who to trust, or even what to believe; in the climax, we learn about Deep Throat's motivation for helping Mulder - that is, assuming he's telling the truth. This is a great example of the show's penchant for answering questions with more questions, and ostensibly giving us information, while undermining it with enough doubt to keep us (and Mulder) guessing - whether we've really learned anything at all.

(And, amazingly, the events and themes of this episode mesh perfectly with the disillusioned revelation that will come at the end of the fourth season - which itself will not be the final say).

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: These guys are like an extreme government watchdog group; they publish a magazine called 'The Lone Gunman'. Some of their information is first rate - covert actions, classified weapons - some of their ideas...are downright spooky.

Scully: Those were the most paranoid people I have ever met. I don't know how you could think that what they say is even remotely plausible.
Mulder: I think it's remotely plausible that someone might think you're hot.

Mulder: What am I onto?
Deep Throat: A dangerous path.

Scully: Mulder, you're the only one I trust.
Mulder: Then you're gonna have to trust me.

Scully: I have never met anyone so passionate and dedicated to a belief as you. It's so intense that sometimes it's blinding. But there are others who are watching you, who know what I know, and...whereas I can respect and admire your passion they will use it against you. Mulder, the truth is out there, but so are lies.

Deep Throat: You and Scully are excellent investigators, and your motives are just. However, there still exist some secrets which should remain secret; truths that people are just not ready to know.
Mulder: Who are you to decide that for me?
Deep Throat: The world's reaction to such knowledge would be far too dangerous.

Deep Throat: A lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths.

Deep Throat: You're awfully quiet, Mr. Mulder.
Mulder: I'm wondering which lie to believe.


  1. This episode was just a perfect 10 for me, a 'wow' moment and my favorite thus far. The dialogue... holy crap, was on a whole new level here. I notice this is the first Glen Morgan/James Wong ep I've seen in my MythWatch but maybe I should go back and watch their freak-a-week episodes!

    Scully and the Lone Gunmen on government conspiracies -- as a skeptic, Scully finally voiced my own beliefs here. I can't believe in these elaborate conspiracy theories about an all-powerful government or a world-wide conspiracy ready to unfold a totalitarian regime because by all percievable indications these governments can barely function without tripping over themselves. You could say it's all a lie, a hustle designed to put our minds at rest. But humans are driven by motives and there are too many conflicting motives for something like this to arise, let alone for it to act without anyone breaking rank and revealing the scam because it is in THEIR own best interest. I certainly do believe this or any other country could devolve into a totalitarian state, it's happened to plenty of nations in the past. But it will happen in a believable way with percievable indications, it won't happen as the result of some infallible conspiracy.

    Scully and Mulder on the importance of skepticism -- this was an amazing scene for Scully showing Mulder that even as a true believer, it is always in your best interest to be dilligent and difficult to convince. Whatever agency may have assigned Scully to be Mulder's partner in an attempt to stifle him, they weren't counting on his charisma, and now she's become his most powerful ally due specifically BECAUSE of her skepticism.

    Deepthroat and Mulder on the world finding out the truth -- This was amazing not just because it posits the classic "the world won't be ready to know we're not alone," but it gives us an even more crucial angle on it -- Mulder mentions times in history when the government has committed horrible atrocities and disturbing, unethical scientific experiments and the fact that these things happened are all unambiguously part of the public record. Adding that to this potential cover-up -- that they're not just hiding the existence of alien life, but atrocities they may be committing in relation to it, like, say, exposing people to radiation or alien viruses, well that makes this both more sinister and more believable.

    Deepthroat on his backstory -- this was just the most gorgeous, beautiful thing. I don't think I believe him about it but it was an Oscar-worthy performance and such a well-written one. Deepthroat even appeared bemused by Mulder's skepticism, as if to say "Man I gave you this Oscar-worthy story and you don't believe it?" But if I was Mulder I'd be saying hey that's a little too good to be true, too clean.

    Most conspiracy theories posit that the government is working in conjunction with one or more alien races, but this and Fallen Angel both imply a situation where the government is keeping aliens from the public, but is working at odds with these alein forces. Of course, that may not ultimately be the truth. In fact, I wonder if the climax of Fallen Angel was, itself, a hoax. Mulder mentions advanced technology they would need to use to pull off their abduction hoax when they were following the truck in this episode. Wouldn't be that much of a stretch if they did something similar in Fallen Angel. If the government has indeed reverse-engineered alien technology then who's to say that they don't have the capability to abduct people through walls & ceilings like aliens are supposed to? And would world governments seriously decide on a blanket agreement to massacre aliens? That's wrong on so many levels -- for one, it'd be a good way to start a war that you can't possibly win against an advanced race.

  2. I really enjoy this episode. It doesn't deliver the goods quite like the season finale does, but I guess that's also kind of why I like it. Apart from how creepy and provocative the whole idea of what comes up in this episode is, it's so damning how in the end you really haven't seen anything, the person you trusted has admitted to lying to you, and you're left not knowing what to believe. I'd say it's the earliest setup for the whole "Believe The Lie" plot thread that's put front and center in the fourth season finale.

    Also, I think that later in the series, the mythology kind of gets away from the base-level "the government is covering up extraterrestrial contact" stuff that we see in the first season, but it's worth noting that the fourth season episode, Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (also written by Morgan & Wong), is pretty consistent with what we learn in this episode.

    Re: Morgan & Wong - They were responsible for Squeeze/Tooms, which are highly rated among fans. Squeeze was the series' first monster-of-the-week episode, so it basically invented the formula, and Tooms is a sequel in which the monster-of-the-week returns - which only happens a few times in the whole series. Morgan/Wong also wrote Ice, which is one of the best monster-of-the-week eps of the first season. It's basically a rip-off of John Carpenter's The Thing, which, despite being a 45 minute TV version of that movie without the fantastic special effects, the source material is so good, it can't help being a good episode. But their best episode of the season is Beyond the Sea, which I highly recommend, just as good TV.

    I think it's funny that The Lone Gunmen say they like Mulder because his theories are weirder than theirs, because to me, I've always seen Mulder as a very rational thinker - he's almost always right about his hunches, it's just that he lives in a world where paranormal phenomena (and government conspiracies) are more prevalent than ours. The Lone Gunmen, on the other hand, seem to be a perfect distillation of the obsessive, paranoid, conspiracy nut. They're really fun characters, though, and they have access to all kinds of knowledge and technology to help Mulder out, so that's cool.

    Yeah, I think it's great, and ironic, that their enemies - basically, the Smoking Man - delivered Mulder's best ally right into his hands. If it were just Mulder, and he broke open the conspiracy, think of how easy it would be for the conspirators to discredit him as a kook. With Scully, though, they wouldn't make a move unless they had damning, incontrovertible evidence. (They'll try to rectify their mistake in season 2 though, wink).