CTP Episode of the Day - 09.29.06 - Terms of Endearment

Today's Cherished Episode: Terms of Endearment (6x06)
Original Air Date: January 3, 1999
Written By: David Amann
Directed By: Rob Bowman

In a "normal" middle-class community, a mother is accused of murdering her late-term fetus. Mulder, however, suspects an even more shocking crime.

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"I know what you are."

Some "Terms of Endearment" Tidbits & Musings:

-- "Terms of Endearment" marked a series first: The mid-production withdrawal of a guest actor for religious reasons. It happened on the day director Rob Bowman was shooting the birth of Wayne and Laura Weinsider's demon child. After several hours spent setting up the cameras, lights, set, and special fire effects, several technical rehearsals were held using a rubber doll. Watching the final run-though was the mother of the real baby hired to do the scene -- who promptly gasped, clutched her child, conversed feverishly with the on-set social worker and studio nurse, and retreated to her dressing room. "Then she told us, 'The X-Files is my favorite show, but we can't do this. It has to do with the devil, and I'm a devout Catholic,'" reported second-unit production manager Harry Bring. "Then she asked 'Is this going to cause a problem?'."

-- No problem. Bowman and Bring assured her that they understood her dilemma completely, presented her with an X-Files movie poster, walked her and her baby to the soundstage door -- then contacted the parents of two more infant "actors" on call for just such an unforeseen occasion. After 45 minutes, and the arrival of a substitute child, the cursed birth proceeded uneventfully.

-- For all of its hellish underpinnings, "Terms of Endearment" was remembered as a fairly non-traumatic feat to pull off. It was the first X-Files written by executive story editor David Amann, who had previously written two network TV movies (The Man Who Wouldn't Die and Dead Air) and spent two years on the staff of CBS's Chicago Hope.

-- The 39-year-old Amann was not a noticeably high-strung individual; and unlike other first-timers, he recalled that the pitching, boarding, and writing process went no more or less easily than he expected. Amann added that the process gave him an accelerated course in X-Files script construction, especially on how to come up with a satisfactory mix of the scientific and the paranormal, and integrate an interesting Mulder/Scully argument -- "Escalating throughout the whole hour," he said -- in the central mystery.

-- "It was about the fifth or sixth idea I suggested," Amann said. "I had this idea for doing a kind of Rosemary's Baby in reverse -- not from the point of view of the hapless woman unwittingly impregnated, but from the point of view of the devil, who had his own needs and ambitions. Chris seemed to really like that. Afterward there were more boards and drafts and rewrites than I can remember, to be honest, but I do remember a lot of sessions with Daniel (Arkin) and Jeffrey (Bell), a lot of feedback from Frank and John and Vince, and finally we hit upon a version that everybody seemed to agree was good."

-- Earlier versions of the script, recall participants in the process, were heavier on pure shock value and lighter on humor and human interest. At one point Laura Weinsider gave birth to a serpent, not a humanoid. (Rob Bowman, for one, remembered feeling much relief when that aspect of the story was changed.)

-- "Actually," said Amann, "I think the biggest problem was one that Chris solved. Up until a pretty late version of the script it was a bit linear in its storytelling. You had this guy who wanted a normal baby from his wife, didn't get it, killed her, then moved on to his second wife. And there was a certain inevitability to the idea that the wife was going to meet the same end. Then Chris had the idea: 'What if the second woman wants the exact opposite of what the guy wanted?' And that's what really made the whole story work well."

-- As is usually the case on The X-Files, an early choice was made to spend as little time as possible focusing on the "scary monster" -- in this case the scary demon -- and concentrate instead on the human side of the equation. Accordingly, the casting process was an intense one.

-- Bruce Campbell, who played the devilishly vulnerable Wayne, was a particular favorite of director Rob Bowman, who had worked with him before.

-- Lisa Jane Persky (Laura Weinsider) was a character actress with impressive movie credits (The Big Easy, When Harry Met Sally, Coneheads), who had long been on the top of casting director Rick Millikan's wish list.

-- Grace Phillips (Betsy Monroe) was a striking leading lady type who was a contestant in Robert Redford's film Quiz Show and a regular on the first season of Steven Bochco's Murder One.

-- To play the part of the Monroe and Weinsider cottages and environs, locations manager Ilt Jones and his staff found several desirable residences in and around Pasadena, the most East Coast-like part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

-- Wayne's car was a Chevrolet Camaro Z28 convertible, downgraded from a BMW Z3 at one point during the rewrite process (and loaned gratis by General Motors, which apparently had no qualms about seeing their vehicles driven onscreen by a relative of Satan).

-- Researcher Lee Smith, authenticated the show's police uniforms, buildings, and insignia by contacting Roanoke magazine -- and quickly reaching a rabid X-Files fan in the advertising department who volunteered to rush outside, take dozens of pertinent photographs of policemen, police cars, and police stations in the area and post them immediately on her web site.

-- In keeping with the comparatively low-stress nature of this episode's production, some creative low-tech methods were employed during key scenes. Instead of computer-generating the flames in the childbirth scenes in postproduction, for example, special-effects gas burners were brought to the sound stage, placed well away from the fireproofed bed and bedding provided by set decorator Tim Stepeck, and shot through a very long lens to make it seem as though the fire was dancing only inches from the characters.

-- To produce the tell-tale sonogram of the in utero demon child in the episode's first scene, property master Tom Day modified a videotape of a completely normal prenatal test borrowed from a crew member whose wife was pregnant.

-- To create a suitably creepy soundscape for crucial passages of "Terms of Endearment," composer Mark Snow dipped heavily into the dolorous Gregorian chants he had stored on his computer.

-- To show the burnt skeletal remains of the Weinsider baby, special makeup effects supervisor John Vulich at first thought rather uneasily about trying to obtain -- for $3,000, he estimated -- one of the only two or three fetal skeletons for rent by medical supply houses in the United States. "Then my office manager, Donovan Brown, said, 'Why don't we just build our own from one of those human skeleton kits?' At first it sounded dumb, but then we got two or three of those adult skeleton models, cut a foot or so off a leg here and shortened an arm there, glued them together to a plaster model of a fetal skull we found, and put together something that worked wonderfully."

-- Although it was the sixth show filmed in the sixth season, "Terms of Endearment" was the seventh aired. The reason: an elaborate shuffling of the production schedule to get Chris Carter's "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" (the eighth episode filmed) on the air on December 13, 1998, the final original-episode air date before the end of the holiday season.

-- That would explain why all the houses in "Terms of Endearment" had autumnal decorations on the doors. (The people in Roanoke were very festive!) The episode was supposed to take place in the fall and air before "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas."

-- 1013 Reference: The time that the baby's body was placed in the fire.

-- Mulder's porno habit was often commented upon, but Scully's horror habit was more subtly mentioned. In "Miracle Man" she said The Exorcist was one of her favorite movies; she referenced Carrie and Poltergeist in "Shadows," and Ben in "Teso Dos Bichos." In this episode, she confessed to catching Rosemary's Baby on cable.

-- Oopsie! It's plausible that a baby monitor could pick up Mulder's end of a telephone conversation, but Scully's as well? That would have to be one hell of a baby monitor (no pun intended).

-- Scully calls Mulder at 6:57 a.m. to talk to him about the Weinsider baby's medical records and says she called Laura's doctor "on a hunch." What time was that exactly?

-- "Terms of Endearment" features The Incredible Leaping Mulder like no other. Almost from the very beginning, with literally no evidence, Mulder suspected that Wayne Weinsider was the devil. That was reaching, even for Mulder.

-- When Mulder tried to convince Scully that his theory was correct, she wanted to know why a demon -- if there was such a thing -- would bother with the make room for daddy routine. (It obviously skipped Scully's mind that she did battle with the Prince of Darkness himself in "All Souls.")

-- Giant Oopsie!! Scully's faux pas obviously caused Mulder to commit one of the biggest oopsies in the series history (ranking right up there with how long Scully was gone when she was abducted and how she received her cross necklace). "I don't know why," Mulder tells Scully in response to her question about Wayne's make room for daddy routine. "I'M NOT A PSYCHOLOGIST." That was news to us, the loyal fans, of course, since it was established in the "Pilot" (not that the Pilot was an important episode or anything) that Mulder was an "Oxford educated Psychologist" who wrote monographs about serial killers.

-- I've always tried to give the show the benefit of the doubt and believe that Mulder's line was supposed to be sarcastic -- as in "No, Scully, I'd have no idea why Wayne might be motivated to do something because it's not like I'm a *psychologist* or anything!" But if it was supposed to be sarcastic, I don't think Duchovny played it that way.

-- But if it's any consolation, David Amann was an equal opportunity oopsier; later in the episode, Scully forgets that she's a medical doctor, just standing there and calling for paramedics instead of rushing to help multiple gunshot wound victim Wayne.

-- However, the episode does feature the return of the trench coats and the Big Ass Flashlights after a lengthy absence, so all is forgiven.

-- The movie that was playing in the Weinsider house when Mulder and Scully arrived was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which starred Gregory Peck as a man struggling to overcome his past and realize the American Dream without sacrificing his family and his soul. His wife Betsy was played by Jennifer Jones. Please draw your own conclusions.

-- The song featured throughout the episode was "Only Happy When It Rains" by the grunge band Garbage.

-- The title of this episode was the same as the 1983 movie about the relationship between a mother and daughter, which was adapted by James L. Brooks from the novel by Larry McMurtry, though it's unlikely the episode title has anything to do with the movie or novel. Most likely, the title is a reference to the "terms of endearment" (loving nicknames/sweet nothings) that Wayne uses with both of his wives at different times during the episode: "Sweetness," "Poopydoo," and "Honey."

-- However, as we know, all things can be related back to the X-Files! The character of astronaut Garrett Breedlove was not in the Terms of Endearment novel; the part was created for Burt Reynolds (XF guest star in Season 9), but he was already committed to make another movie, so the part went to James Garner. Garner quarreled with the director over differing interpretations, and the role wound up going to Jack Nicholson (who won an Academy Award for best supporting actor). The original choices to play the daughter and the mother in the film were Sissy Spacek (star of Carrie which Scully mentioned in Season 1), and Jennifer Jones (mentioned three paragraphs up for appearing in this episode via old movie). The daughter/mother roles in the film ended up going to Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine won an Oscar for best actress, Brooks won for directing, and the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1983.

-- Shortly after "Terms of Endearment" aired in January 1999, actor Chris Owens began noticing interesting reactions from people who recognized him on the streets of Los Angeles. "People kept looking at me with expressions that I guess were saying, 'You destroyed evidence! What a prick you are, Spender!' One day somebody actually waved his finger at me and just said, 'Paper shredder!'"

-- Kudos go to Bruce Campbell for his work in this episode; it's not easy to make one feel sympathetic toward the devil and Campbell did a commendable job.

-- Bruce Campbell's connection to The X-Files goes all the way back to 1993. Campbell played the title role in the Fox series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., which was one of Fox's highest hopes on their 1993-94 fall schedule. The show was created by Jeffrey Boam, who wrote the screenplay for many films including Innerspace, The Lost Boys, Funny Farm, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Lethal Weapon 2 & 3. Fox put a lot of advertising dollars into promoting the show, which aired on Friday nights at 8 p.m.; and they put very few advertising dollars into the show that followed Brisco on Friday nights at 9 p.m.: The X-Files.

-- Bruce Campbell got the acting bug at age 8 when his dad was performing in local community theater. At 14, Bruce won a role in the theater's production of The King and I, playing the young prince. He went on to appear in several more productions, including South Pacific. Campbell was interested in directing, and shot super-8 flicks with a neighborhood pal. Perhaps through fate he met future director Sam Raimi in a high school drama class in 1975. Soon, with Sam and a few other high school pals, Bruce filmed about 50 super-8 movies. During the summer of 1976, he was an apprentice in northern Michigan at Traverse City's Cherry County Playhouse, a summer-stock company. Bruce worked 18-hour days putting up sets, being assistant stage manager, doing errands, etc. No money, but it was a learning experience. He attended Western Michigan University and took theater courses, later becoming a production assistant for a company that made commercials in Detroit. In early 1979, with his buddy Sam Raimi, he decided to become a professional filmmaker. Armed with a super-8 horror film Within the Woods, which they showed to potential investors, they raised $350,000 to make The Evil Dead (1981) which Raimi directed and Bruce co-produced and starred in as "Ash." Four years later, the completed film became the best-selling video of 1983 in England, and New Line Cinema got it a U.S. release. Campbell and Raimi raised 10 times as much cash for the sequel Evil Dead II (1987), again directed by Raimi and co-produced by and starring Bruce. In 1990, Campbell moved to Los Angeles and rejoined Sam Raimi to co-produce and star as Ash in the third of the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness (1993), for Universal Studios.

-- After Brisco County, Campbell directed many episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, a series produced by his friend Sam Raimi. He also acted in the series and in its spin-off Xena: Warrior Princess (also produced by Raimi), playing the villainous Autolycus, the King of Thieves, with gusto. And what happened to Campbell's friend Sam Raimi? He gave up his fledgling acting career to focus on producing and directing. In addition to the films he made with Bruce Campbell, he went on to direct such movies as The Quick and the Dead, A Simple Plan, For Love of the Game, The Gift, and a little film called Spider-Man (and its sequel). He's also at the helm of Spider-Man 3, due to be released next summer.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Chris Owens reprised his role as FBI Agent Jeffrey Spender in this epsiode.

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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 "Terms of Endearment"!

Polly