CTP Episode of the Day - 11.22.06 - Essence

Today's Cherished Episode: Essence (8x20)
Original Air Date: May 13, 2001
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Kim Manners

A secretive investigation by Mulder and Doggett leads to new evidence about the nature of Scully's pregnancy and the plot against her unborn child.

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"Look, Mulder, look. I can't take this! I can't live like this -- as the object of some unending X-File."

"This isn't about the X-Files, Scully. It is only about you. Now, you are going to have this baby and I'm going to do everything I can to protect it. I just can't do that here."

Some "Essence" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The episode title of both parts of this two-parter ("Essence" and "Existence") came from Mulder's voiceover in the teaser: "We call it the miracle of life: Conception. A union of perfect opposites. Essence transforming into existence, an act without which mankind would not exist and humanity cease to exist."

-- In philosophy, Plato understood nature as divided into existence and essence, just as artifacts are, and this became the basis for Greek ontology. Aristotle's philosophy was the premise that essence preceded existence, where man was created to fulfill some telos (the Greek word for "end," "purpose," or "goal") and life consisted of fulfilling that goal. Philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre were existentialists, who believed that existence precedes essence; that man exists without purpose, finds himself in the world, and defines the meaning of his existence.

-- At the time "Essence" and "Existence" were filmed, the X-Files producers still did not know whether Season 8 would be the series' final season. They knew that Fox wanted another year of the show, but also knew that David Duchovny would definitely not return for any part of a ninth season. Chris Carter was quoted numerous times that he would not do the show without Duchovny, but he continued to negotiate with Fox even as the two-parter began filming. Since things were still up in the air, the Season 8 finale was designed to bring the Mulder/Scully era (and perhaps the series itself) to a close, as well as to set up a potential new partnership that could carry the series into Season 9 and possibly beyond if it was decided that the show would continue.

-- "We didn't have a lot of prep time for these two episodes," said Kim Manners, who directed both parts of the two-parter. "So as we were shooting it, we were still writing it. I worked closely with Chris and made lots of suggestions as we went along, and I think we made it as good as it possibly could have been under the circumstances."

-- "We had actually started playing with the idea that Scully's baby would be an alien baby," said Chris Carter, "which was something we'd discussed way back in seasons one and two, as a way of dealing with Gillian Anderson's actual pregnancy. At that time we decided not to write Gillian's pregnancy into the show, but the idea eventually came forward and became part of the series. 'Essence' and 'Existence' were about bringing that story to fruition."

-- Still, even with the end so close, Carter couldn't resist continuing to dangle the "who's the daddy" carrot throughout, from "Essence's" teaser through the stilted "my baby/your baby/this baby" dialogue.

-- The episode received a "Due to some violent content, parental discretion is advised" warning.

-- Mulder's final teaser Mulderlogue. :::sniff:::

-- Doggett's Manly Man Meter went through the roof in this episode, as he cleaned his gun while watching NASCAR on TV (on Fox, of course!) and gave Mulder a ride in the big old pickup truck.

-- Mulder told Scully, "Now I see why you gave up a career in medicine to join the FBI, Scully. You have manos de piedra." "Manos de piedra" means "hands of rock/stone" in Spanish. "Manos de Piedra" was also the nickname of boxer Roberto Duran who uttered the infamous words "no mas" during his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard.

-- Sometimes missed on the first viewing: While Mulder was teasing that he could see why Scully gave up a career in medicine, Scully sighed "Oh, Mulder," under her breath very lovingly.

-- The episode was significant in that Mulder and Scully showed their tenderness, affection for, and playfulness with each other in front of someone else -- Doggett, who was in Scully's kitchen as she tended to Mulder's injuries -- cotton ball swat and all. This was the kind of behavior the duo usually reserved only for each other; so they were finally letting others see what shippers realized all along -- they had a thing goin' on.

-- When Mulder entered the warehouse where Duffy Haskell had been killed, interrupting the discussion between Doggett and Skinner, in the aired version, Mulder's line was, "And what point would that be?" But in closed captioning, Mulder's line was, "You fellas are starting the party without me."

-- "You want to know who the father is, that's Scully's business." I don't think this line (to Skinner) was an indication that Mulder didn't know who the father was (or didn't think he was the father), I think it was simply an indication that he was respecting Scully's right to privacy. If Scully hadn't imparted this information to Skinner or anyone else during his absence, Mulder felt it was not his place to do so.

-- "But if you're asking me how a woman who was diagnosed as barren and unable to conceive is about to give birth in a couple days, that's an answer I can't honestly give." IMBO, Mulder hits the nail on the head and gives voice to what should have been the "big question" in Season 8 all along. Too little, too late.

-- With Ma Scully's poor choice of baby nurses, if we learned nothing else in "Essence," we learned that Scully's poor judgment in selecting house guests, primary care physicians, and obstetricians was hereditary.

-- "Essence" was a great reminder of how much Sheila Larken's presence was missed on the show. (Other than a non-speaking cameo at Mulder's funeral in "DeadAlive," it was her first appearance as Maggie Scully since Season 5's "Emily.") Larken and Anderson did wonderful work together, and seeing that spark again in "Essence" was an unexpected treat.

-- I always laugh at Mulder and Scully's reaction when Krycek yells "Let's go" (after running over Billy Miles). They really hauled ass out of that car. I guess Krycek was the lesser of two evils, or perhaps better the devil you know.

-- "They're afraid of its implications. That it could somehow be greater than them. Something ... more human than human." "That there's a God ... a higher power." Krycek and Mulder provide the answer to the "how" question. William was a miracle from God, created by two people out of their love for one another, and a great reference back to the conversation about God and miracles between Jeremiah Smith and Cigarette-Smoking Man in the Season 3 finale, "Talitha Cumi." "You can't kill their love, which is what makes them who they are, makes them better than us [the aliens], better than you," Smith said. Carter had the perfect resolution to the set-up he created, but couldn't leave well enough alone in Season 9. (IMBO, a huge and fatal mistake for the series.)

-- I have deluded myself into justifying quite a bit that happens on this show, but one thing I've never been able to justify is Mulder handing Scully over to Krycek for "protection." I know options were limited and time was of the essence, and they needed a diversion to get Scully out of harm's way, but HELLO! This was Mulder's sworn enemy, a man who had double and triple crossed Mulder, Scully, and Skinner time and time again. It just didn't make sense.

-- Did anyone seriously not know that Agent Crane was a replicant by the end of this episode?

-- Frances Fisher (Lizzy Gill) started her acting career on the stage, spending 14 years in New York playing leads in over 30 productions of plays by noted playwrights. She studied with Stella Adler and became a member of the Actors Studio by auditioning for legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. While working on the stage, she took roles in two New York based soap operas, The Edge of Night and The Guiding Light, then moved on to guest starring roles in television and small roles in films, including Pink Cadillac starring Clint Eastwood. She began a relationship with Eastwood and appeared in his 1993 Oscar-winning Western, Unforgiven. She gave birth to her daughter with Eastwood, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, in 1993.

-- Fisher received excellent reviews for playing Lucille Ball in the 1991 TV biopic, Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter, and was the original choice for the role of Jill Taylor on Home Improvement (1991), but she was replaced at the last minute by Patricia Richardson. A lack of chemistry between Fisher and Tim Allen was given as the reason for the switch. Fisher's most notable role was probably playing Kate Winslet's mother in the 1997 epic Oscar-winning film Titanic.

-- Arlene Pileggi (wife of series regular Mitch Pileggi) was credited as the First Woman Party-Goer in this episode, though it's assumed she was invited to Scully's baby shower since she played Skinner's assistant in eight other episodes. She was also the "Woman Who Looks Like Scully" in "Fight Club."

-- Once & Future Retreads: Nicholas Lea returned in the recurring role of Alex Krycek. Jay Acovone (Duffy Haskell) played Haskell in "Per Manum" and Detective Curtis in "Demons." Steven Anderson was Dr. James Parenti in this episode and in "Per Manum." Zachary Ansley played Billy Miles in this episode as well as in the "Pilot," "Requiem," "DeadAlive," and "Existence." Denise Crosby played Dr. Mary Speake in this episode and in "Empedocles." David Purdham played Dr. Lev in this episode and in "Per Manum." Kirk B. R. Woller played Agent Crane in this episode and in "Within/Without," "Via Negativa," and "Existence."

-- The day after "Essence" aired, a friend of mine (not an XF fan) told me that she had tried to watch some of the show, but, she said, "every time I turned it on somebody's head was falling off." That still makes me laugh.

-- By the time "Essence" aired, the announcement had been made that The X-Files was renewed for a ninth season, with Chris Carter at the helm, no David Duchovny, limited Gillian Anderson, and Annabeth Gish added as a new series regular.

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(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 "Essence."

Polly