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Review of X-Files episode 5x19, #116, Folie a Deux
David Bjerre, January 2005

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07 June 2006

“Monsters? I’m your boy”, Mulder to Skinner

Near the end of its fifth season, “X-Files” began to show signs of strain. High-profile guest appearances from writers Stephen King and William Gibson did not produce the desired event-episodes, and the stakes were about to be raised as this shortened season gave way to the series’ first theatrical outing, “X-files-The Movie”.

Scully and the SWAT commander, 41 kb

Gary Lambert is just a low-level phone salesman in a company called VinylRight. He is miserable, he hates his job, but he knows something you don’t. He knows the truth, and he knows he must warn everybody, before we all fall victim to “it”. To what, you say? The big insect, of course! The one hiding in his boss Mr. Pincus! Surely can see it there’s something completely wrong here, can’t you? Or at least you can hear it. Listen closely... Do you hear that sound? Do you?!

Mulder and Scully are called into Skinner's office. Even Skinner seems reluctant to hand them their mission, as well he should be. It seems an anonymous person has sent an audio tape to a local radio station in Oak Brook, Illinois. On the tape he warns everybody that there’s a monster among us, a monster that you can only see if you know where to look. The FBI has been called upon to assess the validity of the man’s threats.

Thinking this is another BS assignment, because Skinner doesn’t really like them, Mulder volunteers to go to Oak Brook alone, to check out the story. He begins by analysing the tape. He comes to the conclusion that even though the person is clearly nuts, he’s deadly serious. Mulder recalls a similar X-file in his archives, where a man claimed to be able to see things others couldn’t, immediately lending credibility to the story, in his mind.

Mulder goes to the VinylRight offices to speak with the employees, but he senses something’s wrong. The office is empty. The second Mulder realizes his mistake, he hears the sound of a gun being cocked behind him.

Gary has taken everybody hostage and demands a TV crew, so he can expose Mr. Pincus in a live broadcast. When Gary puts a gun to Pincus’ head, Mulder steps in front of the barrel, and urges him to put down the weapon. But Gary will hear none of it. Instead he begs Mulder to see through Mr. Pincus’ disguise. “Look at it! Do you see?!” he yells maniacally.

Mulder turns to look at the man behind him, and much to his amazement, he does see. A huge man-sized insect...


Kim Manners directs and Vince Gilligan writes this solid stand-alone episode that starts as a goofball story, but turns deadly serious halfway through. Manners directed my favorite funny episode "War of the Coprophages", and the "Goundhog Day" episode "Monday". He has also directed many of the serious episodes, including the mythology entry "Tunguska", the chilling "Leonard Betts" and the series finale "The Truth". Gilligan is best known for fun stuff like “Small Potatoes” and “Bad Blood”, and solid stand-alone episodes like “Soft Light”, “Paper Hearts” and “Drive”. Both are talents that have helped shape “X-files” from the early days.

Folie a Deux means “a madness shared by two”, but in this case the madness is actually shared by the entire audience, as we follow Mulder down the path to certifiable.

At first, we only get a glimpse of the madness, when we see things through Gary’s eyes. When we look at things from another perspective, we can see nothing wrong with the people around Gary, even though he sees them as zombies or insects! But during the course of the episode, when Mulder starts to see all the strange things too, we get to share his vision, and suddenly the “real” world seems wrong! This is a clever and very subtle shift, but it really helps us take side with Mulder, even though we should consider him a lost cause at this point.

Mulder has always been borderline insane, but this time the series goes as far as to actually commit him. I don’t think that has happened before! Tied to a bed, fearing for his life (the big giant insect is coming, you recall) Mulder begs Scully to believe him, in a touching scene that would foreshadow the true leap of faith that awaits her in the feature film.

Scully and the SAWT commadner, 37 kb

Steve Bacic stars as The SWAT Commander.
Bacic quote: “He couldn’t have picked a better spot. One door, no windows.”

Too bad they don’t hand out awards for “Best Bit Player in a Supporting SWAT Team Role”. Steve would have a few of those on his shelf by now.

When the entire VinylRight office is taken hostage, SWAT and police force arrive at the scene. Steve appears as the on site commander for the SWAT team, under the authority of the local FBI agent.

I don’t want to blow his performance out of proportions, because honestly he’s only featured in about a handful of scenes, though he does look awfully comfortable in full SWAT gear, with an automatic weapon in his hands. He’s cool and assertive, and even gets to butt heads with Scully, though being the star of the show and all, she gets her way.

Why did they go with that Colin guy for the SWAT movie? They should have cast Steve! Here’s an idea, how about we revive that cheesy SWAT TV-series the film was based on, and cast Steve as the lead?

Scully, the FBI agent and the SWAT commander, 46 kb

Any episode that ends with Mulder strapped to a bed, while Scully protects him by shooting at a large bug, can only be called a winner. As the “X-files” series was on the verge of grinding to a halt, along came the feature film and invigorated the franchise, and season six would open with two of the all time best “X-files” episodes in “Triangle” and “Drive”.

“Folie a Deux” has been somewhat lost in the midst of these struggles, and that’s a shame. It represents “X-files” in its purest form. Surreal doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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