CTP Episode of the Day - 09.14.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Fight Club (7x20)
Original Air Date: May 7, 2000
Written By: Chris Carter
Directed By: Paul Shapiro

A pair of doppelgangers on the run arrive in Kansas City, where they cause trouble for a down-on-his-luck wrestler, door-to-door missionaries, and Mulder and Scully.

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"Don't go thinking I'm going to start doing the autopsies."

Some "Fight Club" Tidbits & Musings:

-- "Fight Club" was born amid a very strange X-Files state of mind. (Well, there had to be something to explain it!) "People got really strange toward the end of the year," recalled Frank Spotnitz. "We didn't know what was going on. We were all so stressed out about whether this was the end of the series or not. It was getting toward the end of the season and everybody was kind of punchy."

-- That made it the ideal time for Chris Carter to reach back into his bag of storylines and resurrect a long-lost nugget. (IMBO: Yeah, he resurrected it right out of Season 3's "Syzygy" -- an episode he also wrote.) "I had this idea for a long time to do a story about mismatched twins that had an almost nuclear reaction when they were around each other."

-- Carter began writing the script at the same time he was prepping the pilot for the Lone Gunmen series. Juggling two full-time jobs made it a crazy time, and his "Fight Club" script reflected the insanity. Psychic twins, battling missionaries, agents who looked like Mulder and Scully, and a whole lot of wrestling. Remembering his first look at the script, Frank Spotnitz could only exclaim, "It had an odd tone. It felt like a wild show."

-- Casting "Fight Club" was, likewise, the equivalent of a wild ride. Rick Millikan called in former heavyweight boxer-turned-actor Randall "Tex" Cobb as the perplexed wrestler Bert Zupanic and comedian Kathy Griffin to play the tortured twins Betty Templeton and Lulu Pfeiffer. The Mulder & Scully look-alikes in the episode were played by David Duchovny's and Gillian Anderson's stand-ins, Steve Kiziak (who also appeared in "Hungry") and Arlene Pileggi (Mitch Pileggi's wife, who also had a recurring role as Skinner's secretary on the show). Finally, two real professional wrestlers, "Judo" Gene Labell and Rob Van Dam, were found to play the bartender and the opponent.

-- "Fight Club" marked the first time that Paul Shapiro was handed the reins of an X-Files episode. It was also the last. This was his only XF directing assignment. He's directed quite a few episodes of Smallville and directed an episode of Supernatural this year.

-- The episode title is a reference to the 1996 book of the same name, the first published novel by American author Chuck Palahniuk. The plot is based around an unnamed protagonist who struggles with his growing discomfort with consumerism and changes in the state of masculinity in American culture. In an attempt to overcome this, he creates an underground fighting club as a radical form of psychotherapy. The novel was made into a movie of the same name (starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton) in 1999 by director David Fincher (who later directed Jodie Foster's Panic Room). It was panned by most critics (Roger Ebert called it "macho porn") and was a box office disappointment. But the film hit DVD just as the DVD market was experiencing rapid growth, and it became a hit (not only breaking even but actually making a profit) and a pop culture phenomenon. Entertainment Weekly, which had originally given the film a grade of D, later ranked the DVD #1 on its list of "The Top 50 DVDs You Need to Own." In the wake of the film's popularity, the novel became a target of criticism, mainly for its explicit depictions of violence.

-- The Agents Who Look Like Mulder and Scully seemed more like the Agents Who Looked Stupid for continuing to talk to Betty's door after Betty walked past them, just to prolong unveiling their identities.

-- David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson looped the voices of the Agents Who Look Like Mulder and Scully during post-production.

-- LuLu Pfeiffer was named for LuLu Powers, a regular catering chef for Ten Thirteen Productions.

-- A slide show, charades, and banter. Mmm, mmm, good. That first scene between the real Mulder and Scully is flirty and funny as Moose & Squirrel play a different version of the same old game, with Sherlock!Mulder dangling the clues and Watson!Scully solving them one by one ... much to Mulder's chagrin and delight. Scully proves she can solve a three-pipe problem with the best of them. The M&S doppelgangers may not be romantically involved, as Mulder points out (IMBO for no apparent reason other than to show that the Midwestern pair of FBI agents are not *exact* replicas of their D.C. counterparts), but the verbal foreplay between M&S tells me that those two have definitely been engaging in some not-so-youthful indiscretions.

-- Oopsie! Scully told Burt that Betty lived in a blue house and later tells Mulder that she found Lulu, who lived in a pink house. Betty actually lived in the pink house and Lulu lived in the blue one.

-- "Ma nish ta na," what Saperstein says when Mulder mispronounces his name, is Hebrew. It is a slang-like statement shortened from the phrase "Ma nish ta na ha'lilah hazeh" which means "why is this night different from all other nights" -- the shortened version can be read more like "So what else is new?".

-- Mulder's goodbye to Saperstein, "Shalom aleichem," is a traditional Jewish greeting or farewell and basically means, "Peace be with you."

-- I'm glad that when Scully asked Mulder to be her sperm donor, he didn't call it "Yankee Doodling in a paper cup."

-- The episode features the song "Kansas City," which was a Billboard No. 1 hit by Wilbert Harrison in 1959. The song was written in 1951 and was one of the first collaborations by the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also wrote the song "Hound Dog" which became a hit for Elvis Presley in 1956. The team also wrote "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," and (with Ben E. King) "Stand by Me," as well as "Is That All There Is?" recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969. In 2001, Wilbert Harrison's recording of "Kansas City" was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award; and was also named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

-- Stunt coordinator Danny Weselis, called "Fight Club" a "three-ring circus of action and stunts. During the bar explosions we had a room full of stunt people showered with broken glass. And we used stunt people for much of the missionary and special agent fights."

-- The climatic wrestling match that turned into a full-scale riot was filmed over a two-day period in the famed Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Ads on the Internet and in selected publications recruited several hundred extras for the crowd scenes and supplemented sixteen stuntmen and 200 cardboard cutouts that were sprinkled throughout the audience. A split-screen visual image enhanced the scene by allowing viewers to focus on various angles of the action.

-- Harry Bring recalled that for the fight sequences, "the audience members were given soft props to hit each other with. Of course, a few of them got carried away and we had to tell them to settle down."

-- Does Mr. Sapperstein's presence in the XF office at the end make sense to anyone? Unless Mulder invited his new best friend for a sleepover, I can't for the life of me figure out the logic of having Sapperstein be the person Scully explains the case to at the end; did they forget how to do voiceovers? Mulder and Scully should know better than to let a Cigar Smoking Man into their office!

-- As for showing us the Agents' extensive injuries at the end, just plain stupid, IMBO -- Chris Carter at his worst. But I do prefer to think that they got injured in the melee rather than that they inflicted those injuries on each other. (And I hope they got to share a hospital room as their doppelgangers did.) The part of the end scene that I *did* like was the doppelganger of the first scene in reverse. Scully does the slideshow and provides the answers, so the role reversal that played its way through the episode is complete -- Scully has become "Sherlock" to the silent (not by choice) Mulder!Watson. It's a nice view of their relationship/partnership -- each has the ability to successfully be The Sherlock and The Watson. (And as Sherlock Holmes once said to Dr. Watson: "You have a grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.") Communication unspoken. All the great duos got it.

-- Randall "Tex" Cobb was born in Bridge City, Texas. He excelled in high school football and martial arts, and started his career as a kickboxer, racking up nine straight knockout victories. Realizing that the big money was in boxing, he switched sports and launched a professional boxing career. Known for a "cast-iron" chin, a sledge-hammer punch, and a "gift for gab," Cobb quickly established himself as one of the top heavyweight contenders in the world. Cobb's brutal, one-sided beating by heavyweight Larry Holmes over 15 rounds (Cobb was never off his feet) caused world-famous boxing announcer Howard Cosell to "swear-off" boxing for the rest of his life. Cobb took the beating with his typical good humor. His antics captured the attention of Hollywood and he was cast as Jon Voight's opponent in the remake of The Champ (1979).

-- Kathy Griffin is well-known for her stand-up act, and has recently had a very successful reality series on the Bravo network, My Life on the D List which was nominated for a 2006 Emmy for Best Reality Series. She made her mark in the Brooke Shields' series Suddenly Susan, as Vicki Groener, but has also appeared in many other TV shows and films (including Pulp Fiction).

-- About her experience working on "Fight Club," Kathy Griffin said: "Oh, I was the delight of the set. They all found me to be a hatful of fun [tongue in cheek]. I didn't really talk to Gillian that much, though. She pretty much keeps to herself. But Duchovny was very funny. We hung out a lot. The fans are super-devoted, so while we were on location there was a big group of people watching us. And it was so funny. This one woman had a laptop, so I'm sure she was in a chat room the whole time! All they got to see was Mulder going into a van or something. There was nothing really to see, but I thought this [scenario] was really funny. David Duchovny didn't think it was as funny as I did."

-- Jack McGee, who played the very angry Bob Damphouse, has appeared in numerous TV and film roles. He was the gun shop owner in the Oscar-winning film Crash, and appeared in Scrooged, Born on the Fourth of July, and Backdraft. His role as a firefighter must have agreed with him, as most recently he appears as Chief Jerry Reilly in Dennis Leary's FX series Rescue Me.

-- Art Evans, who portrayed Argyle Saperstein, also appeared in the movies Fright Night, White of the Eye, and Tales from the Hood.

-- "Judo" Gene LeBell the "Godfather of Grappling" is both a renowned ex-world champion in both wrestling/judo, and one of Hollywood's busiest stuntman. He is highly respected by many martial artists all over the world, and has been considered a ground breaker in many aspects of the art of grappling. He is still teaching grappling and doing stunts at age 70+, most recently in films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Spiderman 2, Starsky and Hutch, Along Came Polly, and Bruce Almighty.

-- Rob Van Dam was a regular on the Southern California wrestling circuit. He was trained by the Original Sheik, Ed Farhat, who was one of pro-wrestling's classic and greatest bad guys. One of his trademark moves is called the VanDaminator.

-- Christopher Michael (Trusty) had a recurring role as Captain Michaels on 7th Heaven.

-- John O'Brien who played one of the missionaries has a recurring role on Grey's Anatomy as a lab technician.

-- "Fight Club" was the second lowest rated episode of Season 7. Only "Brand X" was watched by fewer viewers.

-- Retreads: "That's why they put the 'I' in FBI." Scully tells Mulder the same thing Mulder said to her in the series "Pilot" episode.

-- The longer the time that the show has been off the air, the more I learn to stop focusing on the bad stuff in these less-than-stellar episodes and (to paraphrase Jinn in "Je Souhaite") "enjoy it for what it is instead of worrying about what it isn't." Sure, "Fight Club" was a forgettable episode, one of the worst efforts by the man who started us on this journey in the first place, and who, at times during the course of the series, showed us flashes of pure genius. Had "Requiem" really been the end of the show, I would have hated that they wasted one of the last hours on this drivel. (Given the pressures mentioned above, I'll chalk "Fight Club" up to exhaustion and a mental breakdown. < g >)

-- But in general, I'd still rather watch "Fight Club" than the majority of Mulder-less episodes from Season 8, because even with its flaws, "Fight Club" still had great chemistry between Mulder and Scully (in person and by phone, and especially in that first scene between the real Mulder and Scully, which salvaged the episode), and Duchovny and Anderson seemed like they were really trying to do the best with the material they had, instead of just going through the motions as they have in some other poorly written and executed episodes. In some odd way, they also seemed like they were having a little bit of fun, and since the partnership was about to come to an end, it makes me fairly happy that they were still able to enjoy each other and their roles in those final days.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's pics.)

Ordinarily, the first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. (Maybe Chris Carter was hoping that rule would apply to this episode!!) But rules are made to be broken!!

So please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Fight Club"!

Polly