CTP Episode of the Day - 07.27.06

Today's Cherished Episode: The Blessing Way (3x01)
Original Air Date: September 22, 1995
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: R. W. Goodwin

With the Cigarette Smoking Man pursuing the secret files that prove the existence of alien visitation and experimentation -- and Mulder still missing -- Scully finds her own life and career in jeopardy.

I have been on the bridge that spans two worlds, the link between all souls by which we cross into our own true nature. You were here today, looking for truth that was taken from you, a truth that was never to be spoken but which now binds us together in dangerous purpose. I have returned from the dead to continue with you ... but I fear that this danger is now close at hand ... that I may be too late.

Some "The Blessing Way" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Certain Navajo scholars had alerted the producers to some cultural inaccuracies depicted in "Anasazi," so Chris Carter was invited to attend a Navajo night chant and the Native American Church Peyote Ritual as research for preparing "The Blessing Way." Carter considered attending the ritual a great honor but jokingly admitted that it was "excruciatingly painful to sit on the ground, Native-American style, for eight hours" during the ceremony.

-- The episode title "The Blessing Way" comes from an actual chant which is the central ritual of a complex system of ceremonies performed by the Navajo to restore equilibrium to the cosmos.

-- The Blessing Way is also the title of a 1970 novel by Tony Hillerman. The novel deals with the story of a Native American who collaborates with an Anglo investigator, very much like Mulder in this trilogy.

-- This was one of Chris Carter's favorite episodes because he "got a chance to explore the death of Mulder's father through Mulder." This was interesting to him because he had just lost a parent and "it was a very personal episode to write, to research, and to think about all summer because I was writing an answer to a cliffhanger." Mulder's spiritual journey was similar to the spiritual journey that Carter himself took in trying to work his way through his grief.

-- Beginning with this episode, Mitch Pileggi was billed as "Also Starring" ahead of the rest of the guest cast.

-- Continuing XF mythology and taking it in bold new directions, "Blessing Way" made Skinner a much more active character without necessarily changing his fundamental role. "Skinner was acting to defend his agents," Carter said. "He's not a member of the XF team in any way, but rather merely trying to right what he perceives as an injustice."

-- The graze on Scully's forehead from the bullet in "Anasazi" is completely gone in this episode. She sure heals fast.

-- In fanfic, it always seems like Mrs. Scully lives near Baltimore, but I'd say that's doubtful if Scully walked to her house. I do love the "shoes" analogy, though; the Scully we know and love can chase mutants in her high heels, but the deflated Scully has to take them off because they're giving her blisters.

-- As we saw more proof of later on, Scully most definitely had father issues. Interesting that nearly two years after his death, her major concern was that "Dad would be so ashamed of me."

-- The Season 3 DVDs contain a rather lengthy scene that was cut from the final episode. It begins after Scully arrives at her mother's house and they are discussing the situation. Scully tells her mom that she did what she thought was right for her partner, but not necessarily right for herself. (And her mom says, "Wouldn't Mulder have done the same for you?" You go, Maggie!) When her mom asks her why she did what she did, Scully says that she thought the pursuit of the truth was more important; to which Mrs. Scully replies, "Well, isn't it?" (You go again, Maggie!) Maggie also assures Dana that she shouldn't be worried what her father would think of her, that he would be very proud and supportive of his daughter no matter what. Melissa enters just as Scully is telling her mom that "I never should have let [Mulder] go off by himself," that he wasn't up to it. Melissa immediately asks if something has happened to Mulder, as she's had a feeling all week that something was wrong, that he had "become ill or something." (Mrs. Scully goes off to make coffee.) Scully tells Melissa that Mulder is very likely dead, but Melissa says she is getting very strong feelings otherwise and that Dana doesn't really believe that. "You're radiating, Dana," Melissa says. "You have a connection with him that's still strong, powerful." Scully tells her sister about finding the evidence that indicates Mulder is dead, and Melissa spouts lots of new age ideas. Scully gets upset and Melissa says, "I wouldn't say it [that Mulder is alive] if I didn't feel so strong," to which Scully replies sarcastically, "I'll consult my tarot cards when I'm out looking for a new job." As Scully walks away, she turns back to Melissa, her face filled with emotion, her voice cracking, and says, "Melissa, I have lost somebody. I would like to deal with it in my own way."

-- To this day, I have never figured out how Mulder got out of the boxcar. I'm assuming there was some kind of tunnel or something (since Albert talked about finding the body so long ago, and we saw one of the alien/human/hybrid bodies right next to where Mulder was found). So we wondered all summer how Mulder was going to get out of that box, but we didn't really find out.

-- There's always time for my footwear fetish, and I loved seeing Mulder's Timberlands sticking out from the blanket he was being carried in!

-- I've also always loved the little bonding scene between Scully and Frohike, showing how much Frohike really does respect Scully in spite of all that sexual innuendo. Frohike is "a redwood among mere sprouts" too.

-- Visual effects producer Mat Beck considered the lengthy sequence where Mulder hallucinates perhaps his most difficult assignment of the year. "That floating stuff was just a bitch," he said, noting there were "four solid minutes of visual effects," and a lot of moving elements. "Brevity is the soul of visual effects," Beck added, slightly altering an old adage. (No offense to Mat, but it still looks like Mulder is floating in a big old salad bar.)

-- In his near-death rumination, Mulder sees the alien/human hybrids killed in the boxcar by cyanide gas, echoing the Nazi atrocities committed during World War II. "These are Nazi scientists," Chris Carter said. "Why wouldn't they behave as they behaved really?"

-- During Mulder's near-death experience, Deep Throat tells him: "Awaken the sleep of reason and fight the monsters within and without." This is an allusion to a painting by Francisco Goya, entitled, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" which was a series of prints he made from 1796 - 1798. Goya hoped that with this series he could show the Spanish people of his day the error of their ways by showing them the things Goya and his circle of friends thought to be monsters in their culture. "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" shows that when Reason sleeps, "the dark creates of the night (owls, bats, and a cat) are let loose." Deep Throat's line here is also possibly the inspiration for the titles of the Season 8 episodes "Within" and "Without."

-- Mr. Mulder's use of the word "again" in his speech, "I did not dare hope to see you so soon nor ever again hope to broker fate with a life to which I gave life" certainly seemed to be an admission that he had a part in Samantha's disappearance. Mr. Mulder does tell his son that "he is the memory" which directly relates back to Albert's voiceover from the teaser: "Something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it."

-- Carter felt the Mulder dream sequences were done very beautifully, yet still eerie and strange. But he noted that some fans complained, feeling the episode was an indication that the series was going "soft." But Carter was satisfied, noting that the "really frightening stuff" in "The Blessing Way" was Scully learning about the implant. Carter was also quite satisfied with Scully connecting with Mulder through her dreams, showing that there's "a connection that Mulder and Scully have that is perhaps more spiritual than we have ever seen before."

-- Convenient plot device: Scully has worn her cross through rain, snow, sleet, hail (nearly everything except abduction); she even wore her cross when she wasn't supposed to (the great Zipper Incident), but "not today" -- so she could conveniently set off the FBI metal detector.

-- Melissa's assertion to Scully that "It's like you've lost all touch with your own intuition" is probably the reason that Scully believes her MulderDream without any science or fact to back it up -- "I just have a very strong feeling" (which also echoes Melissa's words in the deleted scene).

-- Bob Goodwin talked about David Duchovny's subtlety as an actor, and I think the scene where Albert gives him the sunflower seeds that he asked for during his fever is a great example. The expression on DD's face says so much during that few seconds of screen time: amusement, a happy memory of his father (as mentioned in "Aubrey"), and then sadness when he realizes his father is gone. Wonderful.

-- Mulder's mom (who still didn't have a first name at this point) couldn't remember the men in the picture that Mulder showed her, but three of them should have been fairly easy for Mulder to identify: one was his father, one was CSM, and one was Deep Throat. Later he should be able to identify the Well Manicured Man also. And two or three are those Elder guys who keep turning up.

-- In a nice bit of continuity, the gun Mulder retrieves from his father's house looks like the same one he remembered in his Samantha abduction flashback in "Little Green Men."

-- At the time "The Blessing Way" was filmed, Nicholas Lea (Krycek) was the boyfriend of Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully). The two had previously worked together on the series, The Commish. Asked how it felt to help shoot his girlfriend at the end of "The Blessing Way," he said, "I was just hoping she would speak to me when we got home." Lea recalled that his attentiveness to McGraw at the time prompted ribbing from the crew, since between takes he kept asking if the woman who had just been shot was comfortable or wanted a pillow.

-- The reservation scenes were filmed at an abandoned mining town that had been flooded years earlier, making the ground rocky and barren. While there, the production team noticed the old mine eventually used as the setting where the thousands of files were housed in "Paper Clip." A Navajo sand painter was flown in to do the paintings -- creating four of them in two days -- and a real medicine man brought in as a technical advisor after the complaint about cultural inaccuracies in "Anasazi."

-- "The Blessing Way" introduced the Well-Manicured Man, the distinguished-looking older man to whom the Cigarette Smoking Man must answer. He sat at the center of the shadowy Syndicate, the conspiratorial cabal who were the string-pullers behind the government conspiracy. The Syndicate is seen here for the first time, in a smoke-filled room in a luxurious club in New York City. Don S. Williams also made his first of many appearances (including in the movie) as Elder #1.

-- The producers considered it a coup casting accomplished Shakespearean actor John Neville as the Well Manicured Man. He was perhaps best known for playing the title role in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Neville was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1965.

-- Once and Future Retreads: Forbes Angus (the doctor who removed the implant from Scully's neck) played the Tissue Bank Technician in "Shadows"; X's scientific accomplice in "Soft Light"; a security guard in "Small Potatoes"; and the funeral director in "Bad Blood." Lenno Britos (Luis Cardinal -- though he wouldn't get a name until appearing in "Apocrypha") also appeared in "Fearful Symmetry." Alf Humphreys (Dr. Pomerantz) played a Mission Control employee in "Space" and Michael Asekoff in "Detour." (He plays a teacher in the upcoming movie John Tucker Must Die. Michael David Simms (Senior Agent) also played one of the FBI Elders in "Ascension," "Anasazi," "Avatar," and "Herrenvolk." Ernie Foote (the security guard who wanded Scully) also appeared as a security guard in "Pusher."

-- A tag at the end of the episode reads, "In Memoriam: Larry Wells, 1946 - 1995." Wells was a costume designer on the series.

-- Despite the episode's enormous popularity, for David Duchovny "The Blessing Way" was "a little bit of a disappointment" in terms of the pivotal role he thought the trilogy could have played in regard to Mulder's character. "I felt like that was probably the episode I would have as an actor gotten to do a lot more, but as Chris wrote the show it became kind of a symbolic journey rather than a real one, and it was like other people took Mulder's journey for him," Duchovny said. "I liked the psychology and I liked the thinking that went into the episode as a viewer. As an actor, I felt like an opportunity passed me by. If I had to do any episode over again, it would be that one," he said, calling it "the greatest missed opportunity we had. You build a character over two years, and then tell the story through other people. I felt like it was removed, and if I had to do it over again, I'd make that more personal."

-- Chris Carter disagreed, saying that being the "absent center" in this episode -- as Duchovny had described it -- was Mulder's proper role after the sweeping events that took place in the second season cliffhanger. (So it appears that Chris stole the "absent center" line he used later on from Duchovny himself.) "Sometimes being that character ... someone who allows the other characters to say the things that need to be said about this journey, is the right way to do it, because for the character to say it himself becomes for me dramatically uninteresting," Carter said. For that reason, "The Blessing Way" -- as the middle part of the trilogy -- had to shift the dramatic weight from Mulder to Scully, Carter said, in order to set up what occurred in "Paper Clip."

-- "The Blessing Way" was the highest rated episode of Season 3, and the highest rated episode of the series through the first three seasons. It was watched by almost 20 million viewers.

-- The cliffhanger for "The Blessing Way" was almost more a nail-biter than "Anasazi." Luckily, we only had to wait one week to learn the outcome of this one. And you'll only have to wait one *day* to discuss "Paper Clip"! < g >

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode pics.)

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "The Blessing Way"!