REPOST -- CTP Episode of the Day - 03.30.06 - Three of a Kind

Today's Cherished Episode: Three of a Kind (6x19)
Original Air Date: May 2, 1999
Written By: Vince Gilligan & John Shiban
Directed By: Bryan Spicer

On a fishing trip to the desert the Lone Gunmen find murderers, shadow government conspirators, and true love.

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"Oh man, I am gonna kick their asses."

Some "Three of a Kind" Tidbits & Musings:

-- Title: "Three of a Kind" is a double entendre, referring to the Lone Gunmen trio as well as a poker hand, a nod to the episode's setting in Las Vegas.

-- After production of The X-Files left Canada in the spring of 1998, the three actors who played the irrepressible conspiracy theorists The Lone Gunmen were unsure of their future with the series. So they began making other plans.

-- Tom Braidwood (Frohike), for five intense seasons the show's Vancouver-based first assistant director, planned on taking "a bit of a break." No such luck. During the summer he got a desperate call from a friend who was supervising DaVinci's Inquest, a popular Canadian Broadcasting Company crime drama filmed near his home. After that he helped out on a "crash and burn basis," writing and producing for the series and preparing to direct several episodes. He also did some second unit directing on Millennium and had a guest shot on the syndicated show Viper.

-- Mild-mannered Bruce Harwood (Byers) won a part opposite Bill Pullman in the feature film The Guilty, made a guest appearance on The Outer Limits, and recorded the audio version of Skin, the last X-Files novel. He reported that Vancouver was "even colder and wetter than usual" during 1998 to 1999.

-- Dean Haglund (Langly) divided his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles in 1997/98, settling definitively in Southern California in April 1998. He spent the summer of 1998 doing his stand-up routine on the North American comedy club circuit but after that confined his live performances primarily to Los Angeles venues. He filmed a hilarious, nationally broadcast Budweiser commercial with Brian Thompson (the Alien Bounty Hunter on The X-Files); they played a pair of "importers of stale beer." He also won a part as a "computer geek for the Mob" in the 2000 comedy, A Family Owned Business.

-- As it turned out, the boys' future with the show was never in doubt, and the Lone Gunmen characters were still a part of the series when it began filming Season 6 in Los Angeles. In fact, for the second consecutive year, the Gunmen got their own "show": a development prompted in equal parts by the characters' popularity with longtime fans and by the temporary absence of the show's stars.

-- During the fifth season, the week that the Gunmen-heavy "Unusual Suspects" was being filmed in Vancouver, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were in Southern California completing the X-Files movie. During the eight days that "Three of a Kind" was scheduled for production in Season 6, David Duchovny was nearby but unavailable: prepping the episode that would serve as his directorial debut, "The Unnatural."

-- Co-executive producer Vince Gilligan and producer John Shiban, given the late-season task to create a new adventure for the trio, elected to reintroduce main characters and several unresolved plotlines from "Unusual Suspects." "I'd been thinking a lot about what happened to Susanne Modeski -- what happened to her after she drove off with X in that mysterious car at the end of 'Unusual Suspects' and where she wound up," said Gilligan, who was the sole writer of that fifth-season episode.

-- Said Shiban, "Las Vegas just seemed a really good place to put these guys. First of all, because the idea of them running through a casino is instantly hilarious. But the other thing that struck us was that Las Vegas was in some ways the most watched city in the world: There are eyes in the sky everywhere in a casino, and that seemed to complement the themes of secrecy and observation that we were working with."

-- Added Gilligan, "We would never have entertained the thought while we were shooting in Vancouver, but in Season 6 we were only a few hundred miles from Vegas. So we decided we had to do it, and so we pushed for it."

-- Despite the season's ever-present budget pressures, some quick figuring produced the positive result that filming in Las Vegas -- the very first time that a city other than Vancouver "played itself" on The X-Files -- was feasible.

-- As incredible as it seemed, the shoot in Las Vegas marked the first time the series shot on location. According to X-Files spokesperson Shannon Peterson in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, "Because Mulder and Scully traveled all over the U.S. for their cases, everyone always believed the show traveled too. But every eerie locale the show probed up to the filming of 'Three of a Kind' was filmed either in our home of Vancouver or L.A. But unlike any other city in the country, you couldn't duplicate Las Vegas outside." The city's unique atmosphere helped the producers convince officials at 20th Century Fox Television to "cough up the cash" (as Peterson put it) for the Vegas trek.

-- Actually, only two days of second-unit filming were budgeted for Las Vegas. Although the entire show appeared to be filmed on location, many of the episode's interior scenes were filmed at the Century Plaza and Park Hyatt, two large hotels no more than a stone's throw from the Fox Studio. Gillian Anderson did not leave Los Angeles.

-- Location manager Ilt Jones relished the change of scenery. He also appreciated the reception accorded The X-Files in Las Vegas. "There's something about that city that shifts your whole frame of reference -- everything there seems to revolve around getting stuff for free," he said happily.

-- He added, "There's a lot of filming in Vegas, and so we went down the list of the forty or fifty hotels known to be film-friendly, asking each of them what they could do for us. At first the reaction was sort of lukewarm, then all of a sudden someone realized that this was The X-Files, for heavens sake, seen by I-can't-tell-you-how-many millions of people around the world, and then this huge bidding war broke out. We narrowed it down to six or seven contenders, then basically chose the hotel that gave us the best deal and the best look."

-- "When I first scouted with them, they had a whole list of hotels to consider," said Eddie Fickett, a Las Vegas-based location scout who helped the production choose a filming site. "They were looking for something basically upscale -- but not too upscale." Fickett also assisted with finding a dry lake bed location where filming of the teaser was completed.

-- The winner in the hotel location bidding war was the Monte Carlo, a three-year-old 3,000-room hotel-casino located in the heart of the "Strip" on South Las Vegas Boulevard. In exchange for several on-screen glimpses of the hotel's name, plus a line reading "Production Assistance Provided by" in the closing credits, The X-Files got free accommodations for its entire cast and crew; fee-free permission to film in any part of the hotel during the daytime (most Vegas hotels restrict filming in their casinos to the hours between midnight and dawn); and use of the hotel's huge illuminated message board to flash the Def-Con convention logo.

-- In addition to the hotel's understated elegance, show officials liked the fact that the Monte Carlo had "a casino that was not overly themed," according to the hotel's public relations manager Maria Gladowski. "And from an artistic standpoint, the director liked how the casino looked in setting up the shots." Gladowski said the Monte Carlo hoped to attract more movie and television production, and noted the hotel was "particularly excited about the opportunity, because The X-Files was such a popular show that had such a large following."

-- Crew members got the chance to partake of the Monte Carlo's world famous buffet meals (breakfast $6.99; lunch $7.25; dinner $9.99) and to answer questions from hotel guests and other interested bystanders, most of which consisted of "Where's Mulder and Scully?"

-- "Scully," for one, was back in Los Angeles, working on uncovering a hitherto unsuspected side of her personality. Gilligan and Shiban admitted that they wrote the scenes where the normally dead-serious FBI agent became a scatterbrained Guy Magnet in part to reveal to the world Gillian Anderson's bright smile and unusual laugh, which was displayed so often to her coworkers on the X-Files set.

-- "Yeah, it was a lot of fun," said Anderson, of the experience. "The tricky part was walking the fine line between drunk and drugged; between a Marilyn Monroe-type of flirtatiousness and just plain goofiness. In the end, I think I leaned more towards goofy."

-- Many other, albeit less visible decisions were going on around her. To simulate the furnishings usually found in Las Vegas hotel bedrooms, set decorator Tim Stepeck went shopping for black lacquer bed frames, chairs, and dressers in Los Angeles's Koreatown.

-- To procure the eyeglass video camera and other spy devices used by the Lone Gunmen and others in "Three of a Kind," property master Tom Day contacted a security consultant named Richard DiSabatino, an interesting fellow Day had worked with often, who sometimes returned his calls via cell phone from jungle locations in South America.

-- And finally, to make the most of their stay in Sin City, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood apparently decided to remain in character the whole time. Said Haglund, "I think Bruce lost maybe ten dollars on the slots, and was so horrified that he didn't do anything crazy at all during our whole time in the hotel. Tom and I went in the exact opposite direction. One time we did a night on the town together. We closed down a bar in Las Vegas. Do you realize how hard that is to do?"

-- Bryan Spicer, who directed "Three of a Kind," was the second unit director on the X-Files movie. He served as a producer on The Lone Gunmen series; and has most recently directed episodes of 24, Day Break, and Bones.

-- "Def-Con" was an actual convention that had been held in Las Vegas, but it was a gathering of computer hackers, not defense contractors.

-- As part of his work on this episode, researcher Lee Smith called several Las Vegas hotels to ask them about their eye-in-the-sky surveillance systems. "You wouldn't believe how not interested they were in talking about the subject," he said.

-- A possible in-joke was that the unit mentioned by Byers (AE-135) in the episode was similar to the one HAL used to lure Poole and Bowman outside the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey; but in 2001 it was called the AE-35, not the AE-135.

-- Oopsie! When Frohike played the slot machine, the first position on the reel showed a single bar. After Byers spotted Suzanne, the camera went back to Frohike and the first position was not a single bar. There would not have been enough time between the shots for Frohike to have another pull of the machine.

-- Langly called Ellis a shadow government "poobah." The term "poobah" is derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. In this comic opera, Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices including Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else. A Poobah has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who exhibits an inflated self-regard. Baby boomers will recognize the expression "Grand Poohbah" which was first introduced on The Flintstones. Fred Flintstone and his friend Barney Rubble were members of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes Lodge No. 26; a high ranking elected position within this organization was the Grand Poohbah (or Grand Imperial Poohbah). On the TV series Happy Days, Howard Cunningham was a Grand Poohbah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee.

-- Other than "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" in which neither Mulder nor Scully appeared in real time (Scully appeared in flashback), this was the first and only episode in seven seasons in which David Duchovny did not appear on screen at all. (As noted, he was preparing to direct "The Unnatural," which was filmed after "Three of a Kind" but aired before it.) Through seven seasons, Gillian Anderson did not appear in four episodes (other than "MOACSM"): "3," "Zero Sum," "Unusual Suspects," and "Travelers."

-- Government spook Morris Fletcher (as Mulder) gave Scully a slap on the bottom in "Dreamland," and Scully returned the favor in this episode.

-- Area 51, home of Morris Fletcher, is only 90 miles north of Las Vegas. Air travelers at that city's McCarran Airport could sometimes spot curiously unmarked, windowless Being 737s: the aircraft long suspected to be carrying personnel to and from the secret airbase.

-- The "Scully Golightly" comment could be a veiled reference to Vince Gilligan's girlfriend Holly (since he usually included a Holly reference in the episodes he wrote). Holly Golightly was the main character in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, played by Audrey Hepburn in the movie of the same name. Breakfast at Tiffany's was also the book that Scully was reading in "War of the Coprophages"; that was an in-joke about David Duchovny's Jeopardy appearance.)

-- 10:13 reference: When Susanne checked her watch in the Saguaro Room it read 10:13.

-- Oopsie! Lots and lots of blood when Susanne was "shot" but not a drop on her undershirt.

-- When Frohike and Byers came to take Modeski's body away, Frohike's latex gloves had the fingers cut out of them, just like the leather gloves he usually wore. Frohike's trademark wardrobe -- black fedora, combat boots, and fingerless gloves -- was of Tom Braidwood's creation. "I decided what he would wear -- the gloves, that kind of thing," said Braidwood. "It was loosely based on a film that Michael Douglas did called Falling Down. There was a character who owned a gun shop. That was more what I based the wardrobe on than anything else. It just sort of grew from there."

-- A hint of continuity: Frohike referred to Susanne as Byers' "little chickadee." He applied the same term to Diana Fowley in "The End" when he referred to her as "Mulder's chickadee when he just got out of the Academy").

-- Charles Rocket was the fourth alumnus of Saturday Night Live to guest star on The X-Files in Season 6. (Michael McKean and Nora Dunn appeared in "Dreamland I and II" and Victoria Jackson appeared in "Rain King.) Rocket was an SNL cast member during the 1980-81 season.

-- Rocket acquired a certain notoriety for uttering the ultimate obscenity on live television during the final moments of the February 21, 1981, episode of Saturday Night Live. Contrary to popular belief, he was not immediately dismissed from the program, but was fired with producer Jean Doumanian and all but two cast members (Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo were the exceptions) on March 10, 1981.

-- Sadly, on October 7, 2005, Rocket's body was discovered by police in his yard in Canterbury, Connecticut; his throat had been cut. His death was later ruled a suicide, with no foul play suspected.

-- Actress Signy Coleman reprised her role as Susanne Modeski from "Unusual Suspects." Between filming the two episodes, she appeared in the offbeat documentary 20 Dates -- as one of the dates of filmmaker Myles Berkowitz -- and was a regular on the soap opera The Guiding Light. Earlier in her career, Coleman appeared in two videos for Huey Lewis and the News - "I Want a New Drug" and "Heart and Soul."

-- John Billingsley (Timmy the Geek) went on to play Dr. Phlox on Enterprise. More recently, he played the Vice President's brother Terrence Steadman on Prison Break and was a regular on last season's highly-touted but short-lived The Nine, playing Egan Foote.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Signy Coleman reprised her role as Susanne Modeski from "Unusual Suspects." Jim Fyfe (Jimmy "The Geek" Belmont) appeared as Kimmy the Geek on The Lone Gunmen series and on the X-Files episode "Jump the Shark." Rick Garcia (News Anchor) appeared as a Reporter in "Underneath." Michael McKean (Morris Fletcher) appeared in the same role in "Dreamland I/II" and "Jump the Shark."

-- In what might have been an unfortunate harbinger of things to come, this Mulderless episode -- which aired during the May sweeps rating period -- was also the lowest rated episode of Season 6 by far.

-- Tom Braidwood enjoyed his entire X-Files experience but held a particular fondness for the Lone Gunmen centered episodes "Unusual Suspects" and "Three of a Kind." "There's just something about them," he said. "Vince Gilligan wrote both scripts and they were fun scripts and interesting scripts. He seemed to have a really good handle on the characters; we couldn't really disagree with much that he came up with. Vince seemed to really enjoy writing for the Gunmen. And they were a gas; both [episodes] were a really good experience. Certainly in terms of work they were the most fun."

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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 "Three of a Kind."

Polly