CTP Episode of the Day - 07.10.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Oubliette (3x08)
Original Air Date: November 17, 1995
Written By: Charles Grant Craig
Directed By: Kim Manners

The abduction of a young girl prompts Mulder to seek the help of a woman kidnapped by the same man years earlier and who has the ability to feel what the victim feels.

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

"You don't think I've thought of that? I have. And not everything I do and say and think and feel goes back to my sister. You of all people should realize that sometimes motivations for behavior can be more complex and mysterious than tracing them back to one single childhood experience."

Some "Oubliette" Tidbits and Musings:

-- "Oubliette" is derived from the French root "oublier" which means "to forget," also referring to a forgotten place or, according to the dictionary, a concealed medieval dungeon having a trap door in the ceiling as its only means of entry or exit.

-- "Oubliette" was a particularly difficult shoot. Severe weather played havoc with production, as a river the producers intended to use for the climactic sequence became swollen due to heavy rain, rising four to five feet. That forced the crew to move to another location and shoot the scene a week later, in the process losing a day of production. The water shoot also presented problems because multiple costumes were needed for additional takes each time a costume got wet.

-- Director Kim Manners pointed out that Mulder had expressed emotion before over the loss of a family member, but not a stranger; and actress Tracey Ellis's sensitive portrayal of Lucy Householder helped bring both the character and Duchovny to that emotional crescendo. The episode was the first that Manners directed following the accidental drowning of his best friend and the friend's son in Mexico which occurred while Manners was shooting "D.P.O."

-- Fox's Standards and Practices issued a number of concerns regarding aspects of this episode, which as initially written involved the abduction of a 12-year-old girl. In the network's eyes, this offered some uncomfortable parallels to the widely publicized Polly Klaas case. When the network saw the young actress who had originally been cast for the role of Amy Jacobs, "They said 'absolutely not'," Kim Manners recalled. "They said she had to look at least 15 or 16."

-- The actress ultimately cast to play Amy Jacobs, Jewel Staite, had just turned 13 but clearly looked older, and efforts were made through makeup to add to that effect in order to mollify Fox officials. Understanding the network's sensitivity, the producers even auditioned some older girls for the role after Staite had been cast to make sure she could pass for 15. Happily, it was agreed that Staite fit the bill. "We cast the best actress for the part," Chris Carter said. In the final cut of the episode, Manners made a point of concentrating on the case from Lucy Householder's standpoint and downplaying the terror of Amy's ordeal.

-- "I'm sorry . . . but how could you really know how I feel?" David Duchovny's reaction to this line was exactly why he would never win an Emmy for his performances. So quiet, so understated, shot from the side/back; he barely moved a muscle yet you could just see him trying to pull himself back together and regain some semblance of composure, balance, and professionalism following the mother's comment. Wow!

-- According to Chris Carter, when Scully confronted Mulder that he was unable to be objective about the case because it reminded him of his sister, David Duchovny ad-libbed Mulder's response. Carter said this about the episode: "Mulder's link the two [Lucy and Samantha] is obvious from the very beginning. When Amy's mother asks him angrily, 'How could you know, really know how I feel?' the camera comes around Mulder and we all know how he could know. That sets up the whole story, including the scene later on when Scully says, 'This is about your sister,' and Mulder gives her a speech about not everything coming down to a childhood incident. David and I talked about that. He actually ad-libbed that big speech. He didn't want Mulder's motivations to be so simple. We had been there before, in 'Conduit' and there was new terrain to be discovered. It was a good choice." (Added 08.20.06)

-- This episode reminds me of something that I noticed about Mulder in some episode or other: he's one of those people who go down ladders forward rather than backwards. For some reason, probably because I would fall flat on my face if I tried to do that, I am enamored of this trait. I think the way you go down a ladder is sort of like the way you park your car: you're either a puller-inner or a backer-inner. With ladders, you're either forward or backward. And at least 99 percent of the time, Mulder goes forward.

-- Sometimes it's quite clear why Scully's specialty is pathology, as in the scene where she tells Mulder to stop CRP on Amy Jacobs after only a moment. A plot device to be sure, but it makes *Dr.* Scully seem quite silly.

-- Mulder looked so young in the final scene when he was looking up at Scully, and his little smile when he learned that Lucy drowned -- vindication that comes too late -- is so appropriate. I've always felt in this scene Scully showed that side of herself that wanted to mother Mulder when he needed it. She speaks to him almost as a mother would speak to a child.

-- The brief snatch of music heard over the closing scene is the hymn "Kyrie Eleison," a dirge for the dead.

-- Tracy Ellis (Lucy Householder) may hold the retread record for longest time between appearances. She returned six years later in Season 9 to star as the title character in "Audrey Pauley."

-- Jewel Staite (Amy Jacobs) was a regular on the critically acclaimed sci-fi series Firefly; she played Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye.

-- Other Once and Future Retreads: David Fredericks (Photographer) played a security guard in "Blood" and would appear as the FBI Director in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" and "Travelers." Dean Wray who played the tow truck driver returned as Rich Turner in "Chinga." Bonnie Hay, Gillian Anderson's stand-in for scene blocking and lighting, made the fourth of her five XF appearances, this time as a therapist. David Lewis who played Agent Kreski played Vosberg in "Firewalker" and a police officer in "The Jersey Devil."

-- IMBO, the best XF episodes are the ones that are personal; and while "Oubliette" may not be "personal" on the same level as "Beyond the Sea" or "Anasazi," I think it's personal enough to be pretty special and one of the best episodes of this standout season. Early Season 3 focused on Scully, for the most part, and "Oubliette" was finally David Duchovny's chance to shine. It's no wonder that this was David Duchovny's favorite episode of the third season with regard to his own performance.

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

Polly