Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E20 "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'"

[ S3:E19 "Hell Money" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E21 "Avatar" ]

This is Darin Morgan's third episode this season, and the last he would write for the show. It's also his best - and one of my (and many other fans') all-time favorite episodes of The X-Files. While I have mixed feelings about the comedic approach to his scripts (to me, an episode of The X-Files should be more like Grotesque and less like Humbug), Darin Morgan was undoubtedly a clever and talented writer. And this episode, on a subject near and dear to the heart and soul of The X-Files - alien abductions - contains enough compelling material to award it - in my mind - a minor mythology credit. I don't know to what extent the 'false abduction' story in this episode is meant to be taken as canon, but it fits in neatly with what we've been told at this point in the series (especially in Nisei/731).

The episode opens with a surreal inversion of your typical alien abduction - two young lovers are taken from their car on a highway late at night, only to have their abductors in turn be abducted by some kind of weird, cyclopean monster. The framing premise of the episode is that an acclaimed author, Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly) - a character that is reprised on a later episode of Chris Carter's other series, Millenium - is writing a book about this case of alleged alien abduction - in the hope of pioneering a new genre: non-fiction science-fiction. As Jose Chung prefaces, this episode is an excellent example of the subjectivity of reality, as everybody interprets the events of the alien abduction differently, and the story just gets stranger and stranger the deeper you go.

Being the skeptic, Scully's account forms a grounded foundation for the episode. Upon this, a surreal framework is gradually constructed, from which it ultimately becomes impossible to extract the truth. What initially appears to be a case of simple date rape escalates to what Mulder describes as a typical alien abduction, until further details indicate that it's not typical at all. The most revelatory account - that of an eyewitness to the abduction - is also the least credible, as it is written up in Shakespearean prose, by a man who claims to have been visited by suspicious Men in Black. A government conspiracy involving men in alien costumes, memory tampering via hypnosis, and invaders not from outer space, but inner space, all contribute to the melting pot of possible explanations for the events of this case.

Simply put, this episode is pure genius, without a single fault or missed step, from the first second to the last. It's got great characters - like the foul-mouthed detective (humorously filtered through Scully's narration), or the guy who wants to be abducted by aliens, or pro wrestler Jesse Ventura playing a Man in Black (not to mention his partner, whose identity I won't reveal, for those who haven't seen the episode) - and is chock full of classic moments - like when Mulder and Scully themselves are mistaken for Men in Black, or when they re-create a hokey alien autopsy video (hosted by The Stupendous Yappi!, whom we all, no doubt, remember from Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose). And who can forget the infamous café scene (either version - the one where the air force pilot doubts his own existence, or the one where Mulder proceeds to eat an entire sweet potato pie, one slice at a time)? This episode is one that's not to be missed.

Memorable quotes:

(Like all of Darin Morgan's episodes, this one is eminently quotable, but since it made such an impression on me, I'm going to take some liberties and include more quotes than usual).

Harold: I don't want to scare you, but...I think I'm madly in love with you.

Chrissy: Harold, what are those things?
Harold: How the hell should I know?

Alien 1: Jack, what is that thing?
Alien 2: How the hell should I know?

Jose Chung: I had never thought much about it before. I guess that's because I always felt like such an alien myself. That to be concerned with aliens from other planets - that just seems so redundant.

Jose Chung: Truth is as subjective as reality.

Detective Manners: You willing to take a lie detector test to prove you were abducted by creatures from outer space?
Harold: Yes, I am.
Detective Manners: Well, too bad! 'Cause I don't need no lie detector to tell me the only thing you were abducted by were your rampaging hormones, you punk!

Mulder: The description of the aliens, the physical exam, the mind scan, the presence of another human being that appears switched off - it's all characteristic of a typical abduction.
Scully: That's my problem with it, Mulder - it's all a little too typical. Abduction lore has become so prevalent in our society, that you can ask someone to imagine what it would be like to be abducted, and they'd concoct an identical scenario!

Scully: Well, of course, he didn't actually say "bleeped", he said -
Jose Chung: I'm familiar with Detective Manners's...colorful phraseology.

Grey Alien: This is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening...

Harold: You know when you were a kid, and you tore the legs off a bug for no reason? I guess I was the bug...

Mulder: He said it happened before the abduction. So what if they had sex?
Scully: So we know that it wasn't an alien that probed her.

Man in Black: No other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus.
Roky: Really?
Man in Black: Even the former leader of your United States of America, James Earl Carter, Jr., thought he saw a UFO once, but it's been proven he only saw the planet Venus.
Roky: I'm a Republican.
Man in Black: Venus was at its peak brilliance last night. You probably thought you saw something up in the sky other than Venus, but I assure you, it was Venus.
Roky: I know...what I saw.
Man in Black: Your scientists have yet to discover how neural networks create self-consciousness, let alone how the human brain processes two-dimensional retinal images into the three-dimensional phenomenon known as perception, yet you somehow brazenly declare, "seeing is believing?" Mr. Crikenson, your scientific illiteracy makes me shudder, and I wouldn't flaunt your ignorance by telling anyone you saw anything last night other than the planet Venus. Because if you do, you're a dead man.
Roky: You can't threaten me.
Man in Black: I just did.

Lord Kinbote: Roky, Roky, be thou not afraid. No harm will come unto thee.

Scully: Mulder, you're nuts!
Mulder: I'm not saying he isn't delusional, I'm just suggesting that his delusional state was triggered by something he actually witnessed that night.

Mulder: I'm gonna arrange to have her re-hypnotized.
Scully: Re-hypnotized?! What for?
Mulder: To see if what she remembers is really what she remembers.

Mulder: I think you're wrong about that, Scully. But I do think you're right about one thing: that this case might not have anything to do with aliens.
Detective Manners: Hey, I just got a call from some crazy blankety-blank claiming he found a real live dead alien body.

Blaine Faulkner: I know how crazy this is gonna sound, but...I wanna be abducted by aliens.
Jose Chung: Why? Whatever for?
Blaine Faulkner: I hate this town. I hate...people. I just wanna be taken away, to some place where I don't have to worry about finding a job.

Blaine Faulkner: Roswell, Roswell!

Lt. Jack Schaefer: You ever flown a flying saucer? Afterwards, sex seems trite.

Lt. Jack Schaefer: Don't you get it? I'm absolutely positive me, my copilot, and those two kids were abducted, but...I can't be absolutely sure it happened. I can't be sure of anything anymore!
Mulder: What do you mean?
Lt. Jack Schaefer: I'm not sure we're even having this conversation. I don't know if these mashed potatoes are really here. I don't know if you even exist.
Mulder: I can only assure you that I do.
Lt. Jack Schaefer: Well, thanks, buddy. Unfortunately, I can't give you the same assurance about me.

Jose Chung: You seem non-nonplussed by these contradictions.

Man in Black: Some alien encounters are hoaxes perpetrated by your government to manipulate the public. Some of these hoaxes are intentionally revealed to manipulate the truth-seekers who become discredited if they disclose the deliberately absurd deception.
Mulder: Similar things are said about the Men in Black - that they purposely dress and behave strangely so that if anyone tries to describe an encounter with them, they come off sounding like a lunatic.

Scully: That was Detective Manners. He said they just found your bleepin' UFO.

Jose Chung: What can I do for you, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: Don't write this book. You'll perform a disservice to a field of inquiry that has always struggled for respectability. You're a gifted writer, but no amount of talent could describe the events that occurred in any realistic vein, because they deal with alternative realities that we're yet to comprehend. And when presented in the wrong way - in the wrong context - the incidents and the people involved with them can appear foolish, if not downright psychotic. I also know that your publishing house is owned by Warden White, Incorporated, a subsidiary of McDougall-Kesler, which makes me suspect a covert agenda for your book on the part of the military-industrial-entertainment complex.

Roky: And so, at each death, the soul descends further into the inner Earth, attaining ever greater levels of purification, reaching enlightenment at the core. Assuming, of course, that your soul is able to avoid the Lava Men.

Jose Chung: Seeking the truth about aliens means a perfunctory 9 to 5 job to some, for although Agent Diana Lesky is noble of spirit and pure at heart, she remains, nevertheless, a federal employee. As for her partner, Reynard Muldrake - 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.

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.


  1. One of the greatest moments in TV history. Definitely on anyone's 'perfect alien playlist.'