CTP Episode of the Day - 09.13.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Unrequited (4x16)
Original Air Date: February 23, 1997
Story By: Howard Gordon
Written By: Howard Gordon & Chris Carter
Directed By: Michael Lange

A Marine Corps prisoner of war, abandoned in Vietnam by his superiors, returns to the United States with a vengeance -- and a special talent for hiding in plain sight.

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"Is that what you believe? Is that what you really believe? They're not just denying this man's life, they're denying his death. And with all due respect, sir ... he could be you."

Some "Unrequited" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The episode title "Unrequited" means "not reciprocated" or "not avenged."

-- For more than a quarter century or so, a sizable ice floe of suspicion -- based on the belief that U.S. servicemen remain imprisoned in Vietnam -- has floated along the surface of the American psyche. In 1996, CBS's 60 Minutes aired a segment reporting that in the 1960s and 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency had cruelly abandoned and declared dead hundreds of South Vietnamese secret agents it knew to have been captured by the North Vietnamese. This so intrigued and inspired executive producer Howard Gordon that even though he wasn't scheduled to write his next episode until 4x19 ("Synchrony"), he ended up writing "Unrequited" during the show's Christmas break.

-- "There was a bit of a mix-up, a last-minute scramble," said Gordon. "So the day before Chris's vacation, Frank and Chris and I sat down and beat out the story. Then I wrote a draft of the script and I felt it was just not right. So I went back to Chris and I was honest with him. I said, 'I need your help, and I think it's right that I share the credit with you.' And that's why his name is on the script as well as mine. It was a difficult birth, as usual, but I think it came out fine."

-- Gordon explained that his theme of a human being behind invisible -- politically and metaphorically -- had been kicking around for some time. "The problem was," he said, "how can a human being become physically invisible? I was talking to my brother (a practicing ophthalmologist) about this, and he told me that we all have blind spots -- nonworking portions of our retinas and optic nerves that normally don't affect us because of our brains' compensatory apparatus."

-- "As far as creating a 'disgruntled vet' was concerned," added Gordon, "as writers, we're always looking for disenfranchised people, characters on the fringe of society that we can sink our teeth into. Then, too, I felt that this was the last Vietnam vet story I'd ever be able to write, because they're beginning to age as a population and, just like the Holocaust survivors in 'Kaddish,' die off."

-- Gordon also explained that he was always happy to write a substantial part for Mitch Pileggi; it was easy to do in this case because Walter Skinner had been established as a Vietnam veteran in "One Breath." (Though surprisingly Vietnam Vet and former Marine Skinner really isn't all that involved in this episode.)

-- This was Michael Lange's first directing assignment since 1994; he also directed "Young at Heart," "Miracle Man," and "Ascension." "Unrequited" was also the last X-File episode he directed.

-- It seems pretty obvious that the only reason to show the same scene twice in this episode, once at the beginning and once at the end, was because in the final edit, it was extremely short. (The seemingly endless shots of flags and of the parade were another clue.) I would almost bet that first scene of the first act, where General MacDougal was shot in his limousine, was originally the teaser.

-- A legend at the beginning of the second scene after the teaser gave the date as November 12 which means this episode took place pre-"Memento Mori" and thus no mention of Scully's cancer.

-- Although the November 12 date seems a bit off, since November 11 is Veterans Day and it would seem that whatever they were doing at the Vietnam Memorial should have been done on November 11.

-- For those looking for the little hints of MSR, in the scene where Mulder and Scully get the warrant to go visit Denny Markham, as they leave the room, Mulder puts his hand on the small of Scully's back to guide her out of the room.

-- "Unrequited" did have one interesting visual moment. When M&S are standing outside the compound of the militia organization, Scully scans the remote country road. As the camera follows her point of view, it goes past a figure standing by the side of the road. When the camera tracks back, the figure has disappeared, leaving Scully and the viewer to wonder if we really saw what we thought we saw.

-- Who let the dogs out? "Unrequited" provided some good bloopers.

-- The entire show was cast in Vancouver -- which explained why several of the U.S. military men spoke with pronounced Canadian accents. The re-creation of the Vietnam Memorial, which had begun with four panels for Mulder and Scully's rendezvous with Pudovkin in "Never Again" was completed with the construction of two seven-foot-tall sections, one sixty feet long and the other thirty-six, built out of Plexiglas spray-painted from the rear to look like granite.

-- The names silk-screened on the face of the fake monument are mostly nobody's. For legal reasons, the actual names could not be used. Art assistant Kristina Lyne asked her sister, who runs a typing service, to sit at her keyboard and make up 2,000 imaginary names. It took her 20 hours, imagining and typing nonstop. Among the imaginary names, there are a few names of X-Files staff members.

-- When Nathaniel Teager confronts Mrs. Davenport in front of the Vietnam memorial, two of the names visible on the wall behind her are Jesse R. Ellison and Harlan L. Hahn. Harlan Ellison is a famous science fiction writer and fan of the show, while Jessica Hahn was well-known for the scandal involving her and Reverend Jim Baker.

-- For daytime filming, the monument was set up in Vancouver's Jericho Part. Night shooting in the park is not allowed, however, and no soundstage at North Shore Studios was large enough to accommodate, so the set was moved to Ballantyne Pier, a semi-enclosed (and definitely drafty) cruise ship dock that sat unused for most of the Pacific Northwest winter.

-- The teeming crowd in the rededication scene consisted of 150 strategically placed extras augmented by the 50 lucky winners of a "get a walk-on part on The X-Files" contest sponsored by Fox and run through local U.S. radio stations. Also pitching in to help was Laurie Kallsen-George and her visual effects crew, which electronically enhanced the crowd. The extras and contest winners were filmed sitting in the stands waving their flags, then filmed in three different locations in front of the grandstands, still waving their flags. All the shots were put together via visual effects to create the crowd. The Washington Monument and the Capitol building were painted into the shot by the effects crew to give the illusion of acting being at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

-- Of any unique acting requirements for this episode, only Gillian Anderson had anything much to say. "The challenge there," she said, "was to comprehend physically how we were actually seeing this guy -- to wrap our mind around the fact that we were only seeing him through our peripheral vision. Besides that, I just remember that this was one of those episodes where we really had to run around. A lot."

-- General Peter MacDougal was named for series editor Heather MacDougall.

-- When Mulder and Scully go to investigate the woman at the war memorial, the time is 11:48 -- Chris Carter's wife's birthday is 11/21/48.

-- Scott Hylands (General Benjamin Bloch) was a steadily working and well-respected Canadian actor who was probably best known for the CBS late-night series Night Heat in which he played Detective Kevin O'Brien. The series, which ran from January 1985 through September 1991, was filmed entirely on location in Toronto and was a straightforward action series about the professional and occasionally personal lives of a group of police detectives working in a large metropolitan city -- as seen through the eyes of their friend, newspaper columnist Tom Kirkwood whose popular column was titled "Night Heat." The first episode of the series featured a young man playing a mugger in his first TV acting role; his name was Keanu Reeves.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Laurie Holden reprised her role of Marita Covarrubias. Peter LaCroix (Teager) was Ranheim/Frank Druce in "E.B.E." and Dwight (the doomed tram operator) in "Ascension. Larry Musser (Denny Markham) was Sheriff John Oakes in "Die Hand Die Verletzt," Detective Manners in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," and Jack Bonsaint in "Chinga." Lesley Ewen (Renee Davenport) was a receptionist in the "Pilot," an Agent in "Genderbender," and Carina Maywald in "Revelations." Ryan Michael (Agent Cameron Hill) was Overcoat Man in "One Breath." Allan Franz (Dr. Ben Keyser) appeared in an uncredited role in "Patient X." Mark Holden (Agent Eugene Chandler) played a cop in "Kitsunegari." D. Harlan Cutshall (Adjutant) played a guard in "The Walk."

-- In my biased opinion, "Unrequited" is basically just plain boring. It seems to suffer from too much filler and not enough substance. But there is one area in which this episode gets an A+ (again, IMBO); in "Unrequited," Mulder looks simply mah-velous. Hoo-boy! And for that alone, "Unrequited" is worth a revisit from time to time.

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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 "Unrequited"!

Polly