CTP Episode of the Day - 10.24.06 - Empedocles

Today's Cherished Episode: Empedocles (8x17)
Original Air Date: April 22, 2001
Written By: Greg Walker
Directed By: Barry K. Thomas

Agent Reyes enlists Mulder's help investigating a killer's connection to the unsolved murder of Doggett's son.

"I think there's an opening coming up in this office soon. You might want to apply."

Some "Empedocles" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Episode Title: Mulder's speech about evil going from man to man or age to age is probably the tie to this episode's title. Empedocles was a Greek scientist-philosopher-poet (c. BC 492-432). He was known for his belief in the "four-element" theory that all things are composed of four "primal" elements: earth, air, fire, and water, and that different mixtures of these four elements produced the materials of our common experience. He also believed that opposing forces love and strife (also known as "good" and "evil") acted upon these elements to combine and separate them into their varied forms (strife separates them, love combines them). Empedocles argued that this cycle continues eternally, thus introducing the possibility of reincarnation and an evolutionary process. He also formulated a primitive theory of evolution in which he claimed that humans and animals evolved from antecedent forms.

-- At a time when sitcoms about single parents and fractured families were ruling the airwaves, Mad About You (1992 - 1999) was a surprise -- a sexy hit show about a husband and wife simply in love that explored what it meant to be newly married in New York City. It was created by and starred Paul Reiser as Paul Buchman, with Helen Hunt as his wife Jamie. Hunt won four straight Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role; and many of the show's guest actors including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Carol Burnette, and Cyndi Lauper each won Emmy's for their guest appearances on the show. (In fact, when Mel Brooks won in 1997-1998, he beat out David Duchovny, who was nominated for his guest appearance [as himself] in the "Flip" episode of The Larry Sanders Show.)

-- In spite of the comment in the episode that Mad About You was about a married couple and "we just work together," I submit that there were some similarities between Paul and Jamie and that other couple: Episodes of both shows focused on the couple adjusting to their life together while dealing with unusual situations that tested their mettle and their partnership. Both shows featured the couples' strange friends and dealt with the sometimes dysfunctional relationship between each person and his or her parents. In the case of each couple, the male partner had a pet(s) before meeting the female partner, and each couple had a baby together as their shows were coming to an end. < g >

-- When I wrote the "Empedocles" Theatre of the Mind and did a little research about Mad About You, I learned that there were lots of web sites devoted to the show. Those on the web sites called it "MAY" for short, and the devoted fans of the show were called "MAY-niacs." The web sites included synopses of each episode, and even had pictures and quotes. They had chat rooms where they talked about the show -- a show that had been off the air since 1999! They debated what should have happened to the characters on the show and they overanalyzed and nitpicked every teeny tiny detail of every single episode. People are crazy, aren't they? < veg >

-- A "stressor" is defined as any event that produces stress in an individual. There are different determining factors in how a stressor affects a person, including age, gender, personality, experience, and emotional state.

-- The ER Nurse asking first Mulder and then Doggett if they were the "husband," especially in the 21st century, was an inexcusable, painfully obvious plot device.

-- The character of Monica Reyes got a better introduction in this episode than she did in "This Is Not Happening." She is stronger, more tenacious, less New Age. She is able to stand up to not only Doggett but Mulder as well, and she refuses to let either of them be distracted by the pissing contest that seemed to preoccupy them early on. I've always felt that Monica was written as a sort of "Mulder/Melissa" hybrid, but in "Empedocles," she's heavy on the Mulder, light on the Melissa.

-- "Empedocles" was the first episode with the whole X-Files team in place -- The Originals (Mulder and Scully) and the New Kids (Doggett and Reyes) -- with an actual case in progress. With this new (if not yet official) dynamic in place, we see Mulder recognize and connect with Monica's drive and persistence, and we see Scully connect and affect Doggett with her admission that she was a skeptic for so long because she was "afraid to believe" (and he begins to wonder if his fear of believing caused him to miss something in investigating the death of his son). There's an X-file in this episode, but "Empedocles" is less about the paranormal than it is about the parallels between these two teams -- the past and the future.

-- One parallel I could have lived without was the one between Mulder and Doggett having lost members of their family under mysterious circumstances. The boys at 1013 delighted in telling us how different Mulder and Doggett were, and thus this similarity shouldn't have been necessary.

-- "I saw Elvis in a potato chip once." Mulder's final Elvis reference of the series.

-- Scully suffered an Abruptio Placentae which is the premature separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. This is a potentially life-threatening complication of pregnancy that may occur during the last trimester. Warning signs can include bleeding, premature contractions, and abdominal pain. The danger increases with the severity of abruption (marginal, partial, and complete -- Scully's was partial), but the risk is usually manageable with immediate and appropriate medical care.

-- Just my biased opinion: When Mulder reached out and put his hand on Scully's tummy, I believe at that precise moment any confusion he had about where he fit in melted away. What Scully meant to him and the fact that he could have lost her *and* his child is plainly on his face, the relief changing to wonder as he perhaps felt the heartbeat or movement of his offspring for the first time. And Scully's broad smile indicated she now knew everything was going to be all right between them. A wonderfully sweet moment between the two characters -- again communicating with eyes and facial expressions rather than words.

-- Also my biased opinion: For the first time since returning in Season 8, I think that David Duchovny showed that stepping away from the role of Fox Mulder for a little while did him a world of good. In this episode, Duchovny brought a renewed vitality and some surprising freshness to his signature role. His scenes with Scully were intimate and tender without being sappy or syrupy, and together with Anderson, they showed us they could still generate that old UST and make us remember why we loved them so much in the first place. In his scenes with Doggett, Duchovny showed that he too could be a manly man, yet he also excelled in showing Mulder's compassion and understanding about Doggett's loss so similar to his own. (Duchovny and Robert Patrick had good chemistry which was also evident in "Vienen.") And in his scenes with Reyes, Duchovny resurrected the Mulder Cool, meeting her challenges toe to toe and tossing out the sarcastic one-liners and Mulderisms that we missed so much with renewed vigor. In this episode, Duchovny harkened back to the Mulder we fell in love with in 1993 -- just an older, wiser, more settled model. It always seemed like the acting accolades were reserved for Gillian Anderson, but IMBO, Duchovny was just as deserving and his contributions often overlooked; and I'm glad at the end of Season 8, we got a few more chances to see just how good he really was.

-- Jeb's middle name, Larold, is probably a nod to one of the show's sound mixers, Larold Rebhun.

-- Personally, I love the scene between Mulder and Doggett in the hallway. It's a great metaphor for these two men, their beliefs and their tentative relationship diametrically opposed, sizing each other up, feeling each other out, trying to come to terms with the existence and opinions of the other, and finding that they do have a sad and tragic common bond. Mulder firmly established his place (symbolized by his protective stance in front of Scully's door); Doggett felt pushed to the outside just when he was starting to question what he had seen and what he believed. Fantastic.

-- There was quite a long thread in this folder some time ago about the quality of Mulder's gifts to Scully (including the doll he gave her in this episode). Mulder's gifts may not have had much monetary value, but they were chock full of sentimental value, something I believe meant much more to Scully. Mulder's gifts had deeper meaning and he gave them from his heart.

-- For example, I'm sure Scully thought she knew why Mulder gave her the gift in this episode and what it meant ... that he appreciated that they were an extraordinary couple who shared some extraordinary moments ... that what can be imagined can be achieved ... that you must dare to dream ... and you must never give up on a miracle ... but there's no substitute for perseverance and tenacity ... and teamwork ... because no one makes a baby alone ... and as they prepared to commemorate the greatness of their blessed event ... they could not forget the sacrifices they made to make the moment possible.

-- But Mulder probably just thought it was a pretty cool doll. < g >

-- When Paul and Jamie finally had their baby on Mad About You, they had a tough time choosing a name. They finally named their daughter MABEL -- which was short for Mothers Always Bring Extra Love. I think Scully used the same method to name WILLIAM -- most likely, it was short for Wild Intercourse, Little Luck, It's A Mulder! < veg >

-- Barry K. Thomas joined The X-Files as a First Assistant Director in mid-Season 6. "Empedocles" was his first and only directing assignment. He directed an episode of Frank Spotnitz's Night Stalker last year. Thomas' nickname on set was "Sugar Bear," and he appeared in front of the camera as Sugar Bear in David Duchovny's "Hollywood A.D." (He was the guy with the megaphone.)

-- Greg Walker joined the series as a story editor in January 2000. In addition to this episode, he wrote "Brand X" and "Surekill."

-- Denise Crosby (Dr. Mary Speake) was best known by sci-fi fans for her role as Lt. Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In her long career, she did several episodes of the Showtime series Red Shoe Diaries with David Duchovny and played a pregnant mother in Deep Impact with Tea Leoni. Denise Crosby was the daughter of entertainer and sometimes actor Dennis Crosby and granddaughter of legendary performer Bing Crosby.

-- The young Mia Dukes was played by twin sisters Amanda and Caitlin Fein. The girls also appeared in Deep Impact as Caitlin Stanley.

-- Ron Canada (Detective Franklin Potter) has had recurring roles in The Shield (Chief of Police Tom Bankston), The West Wing (Under Secretary of State Theodore Barrow), and Boston Legal (Judge Willard Reese). He appeared in last week's episode of Ugly Betty as Senator Slater.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Denise Crosby (Dr. Mary Speake) played the same role in "Essence." Jake Fritz (or rather his photo) played Luke Doggett's photo in this episode and in "Invocation." Christopher Stanley (Agent Joe Farah) played the same role in "Per Manum."

-- I'll always remember "Empedocles" fondly, because it was my closest brush with X-Files greatness. The municipality I worked for received a request from the show to duplicate the uniforms, badges, and vehicles of our police department for an upcoming episode, identified as AB08X17 in the letter. Having seen who adorned my screen saver at work, a member of the Police Department called me to ask if I thought the request was legitimate. I assured them it was and the request was passed along to our elected officials for a decision. To make a long story short, the elected officials eventually granted permission, but we then received another letter saying too much time had passed and they would not be able to use the items in that episode, but they would hold them for use at a later time (though they were never used). AB08X17, of course, turned out to be "Empedocles." My delusions of serving as an X-Files technical advisor were short-lived. But I did get the letters on X-Files stationery, so I guess that was the next best thing.

-- "Nice package." I'll say. And the baby gift wasn't bad either. < veg >

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's 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 "Empedocles."