September 17, 2016
The X-Files 3.20, Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”: “This Is Not Happening”
Summary: Look, stars! And a…spaceship? No, just the underside of a cherry-picker being used in Klass County, Washington. Two teens, Chrissy and Harold, are on their first date, and he’s already in love. Their car suddenly loses power and stops in the road. A spaceship descends and two aliens approach the teens. “What are those things?” Chrissy asks. “How the hell should I know?” Harold replies. The teens pass out and are dragged down the road just as another spaceship arrives and a monster exits, growling at the aliens. “Jack, what is that thing?” an alien asks. “How the hell should I know?” the other alien replies.
Mulder’s “I want to believe” poster gets a close-up as a man named Jose Chung tells Scully that he never gave alien life much thought before. Mulder has refused to talk with Chung, but Scully’s excited to meet him, since he wrote one of her favorite novels. Now he’s writing a book about an alien abduction. He wants to create a new literary genre: “non-fiction science fiction.” Scully hopes he writes the truth, but Chung’s having trouble putting together all the witness statements from Klass County. Now he wants Scully’s version of the truth.
Scully tells Chung that she first heard of the strangeness when Chrissy returned from…wherever, with no memory of what happened to her. Her clothes were on inside-out and backwards, and she showed signs of abuse. Chung and Scully debate whether they should use the term “experience” or “abductee.” Scully says it doesn’t matter – Chrissy was probably raped, not taken by aliens. But that night, she claimed she had a “visitation.”
In a flashback, Harold comes to Chrissy’s window to try to convince her that he did what he could. Chrissy’s father hears Harold and calls the police, who question him at his house. Harold says he and Chrissy were abducted by aliens, and he passes a lie-detector test when questioned. But the investigating detective thinks Chrissy’s telling the truth about Harold raping her. Mulder and Scully question Harold, then Chrissy, and the latter makes Mulder think there was an abduction, and that Chrissy has “post-abduction syndrome.” Scully thinks it’s just stress.
Scully tells Chung that Mulder convinced Chrissy’s parents to let her be hypnotized, but Scully doesn’t like the use of hypnosis – she thinks it actually makes things worse. People in a hypnotic state are prone to making things up. Chung researched CIA mind-control experiments for a Manchurian Candidate-like book, and is surprised that so little is understood about it. Just hearing words can transform a person’s state.
Chrissy undergoes hypnosis, seeing her parents, Mulder, Scully, and the detective turn into aliens. She describes being on a spaceship with Harold and little gray creatures. The aliens seem to be arguing, but Chrissy can only understand the leader. He tells her through ESP that this is for the good of the planet. She remembers feeling like the alien was stealing her memories. After the session, Mulder tells Scully that Chrissy has described a textbook abduction scenario. Scully thinks that’s the problem – it’s so textbook that anyone could come up with it.
Scully censors some of Detective Manners’ words as she tells Chung how upset he was with the agents. Manners disagrees with the agents that Chrissy and Harold’s stories are exactly the same. Apparently Harold’s story involves being locked in an electrified cage with a captive alien nearby. Mulder questions Harold, who says the alien smoked a cigarette and ignored him. Chrissy was then beamed up from their cage, just after Harold promised to protect her. He tells Mulder that the alien repeated the same thing over and over (in English, and not telepathically): “This is not happening.”
Harold tells Mulder that he was beamed up next, but he’s not sure where he was taken. He felt like he was a bug having its body parts torn off. When he was returned to…wherever, he checked on Chrissy. Scully gets tired of the questions and asks Harold if he and Chrissy had sex that night. He admits that they did, but he’s worried about Chrissy’s father finding out. Scully thinks they’re dealing with two teens who don’t know how to deal with the aftermath of sex, rather than two alien abductees. But Manners has found another eyewitness.
The agents meet with a guy named Roky who has spent the past 48 hours writing down everything he saw. He warns them that they’ll put their lives in danger if they read it. Last night, while he was writing, a car drove into his garage and a man told him the planet Venus is often mistaken for a flying saucer. Roky felt like he was in a trance, and he can’t remember what the man and his partner looked like, other than that they were wearing black. Mulder guesses these were the legendary Men in Black, who often visit abductees after their return.
Chung tells Scully that the Men in Black have featured in stories for centuries, so this isn’t that surprising. Scully disagrees. One of the Men in Black tells Roky that Jimmy Carter once thought he saw a UFO, but again, it was Venus. “I’m a Republican,” Roky replies. The Man in Black continues that Venus was at its peak last night, so that’s definitely, 100 percent, unequivocally what Roky saw, no matter what he believes. The other Man in Black says nothing as the first warns Roky to keep his mouth shut.
Roky turns over his work to Mulder, then announces that he’s going to disappear so he can’t be found. Mulder reads Roky’s statement to Scully in a hotel room, describing how Roky saw the aliens with the monster from the second spaceship. In flashback, the monster approaches Roky to tell him, in language usually used by angels in the Bible, not to be afraid. He wants to show Roky his spaceship. So Roky goes aboard and travels toward “innerspace,” to the Earth’s core, to meet another alien, Lord Kinbote. Mulder angrily realizes he’s reading some really bad fan fiction.
Chung agrees with Scully that Roky’s a nutbar. Mulder, however, thinks that Roky was just inspired by something he really saw. He wants to have Chrissy hypnotized again. This time, her story matches Harold’s. She remembers being taken somewhere by men in suits and Air Force uniforms. A doctor tells her she’s feeling sleepy and relaxed as the Air Force officers suggest questions to ask her. They mention looking for others. One man says they should give her the usual spiel they give abductees. The doctor tells her this is for the good of her country. Chrissy feels like he’s stealing her memories.
After the session, Scully accuses Mulder of feeding Chrissy leading questions. Manners interrupts again to announce that someone claims he found the body of an alien. Chung meets with this witness, Blaine, who says he wants to be abducted and taken someplace where he doesn’t have to find a job. He tells Chung he was out in a field that night, hoping to stumble across some aliens. The police showed up with a couple of Men in Black, though one of the Men in Black was a poorly disguised woman whose hair was too red to be believable. The other was so expressionless that he might be a mandroid.
Manners IDs the alien as an alien, and Scully orders it wrapped up. She tells Blaine that he didn’t see anything and better not say he did. Scully’s shocked that Blaine told Chung she threatened him, especially since they let him view the autopsy. In her version of events, he bursts into the autopsy room with a camcorder, declaring that people have a right to know the truth: “Roswell! Roswell!” Mulder has him record as Scully performs the alien’s autopsy.
Someone has gotten hold of the footage and edited it for what most likely turned out to be a disappointing Fox special hosted by the Stupendous Yappi. For instance, they cut out the part where Scully finds a zipper and pulls off the alien’s head. It’s a costume being worn by a dead human. Blaine realizes he’s been dealing with a dead person, and he runs off. The agents ID the man as Air Force Major Robert Vallee, who recently went AWOL. Mulder tells the Air Force that they can’t take Vallee’s body, but they can speak to his partner, Lieutenant Jack Schaefer. No, wait, they can’t, because he’s still AWOL. When the agents take the Air Force officers to see Vallee’s body, it’s gone.
Blaine gets a visit from the Men in Black, one of whom he finds familiar. He gets knocked out, only waking up when Mulder slaps him and demands the autopsy tape. Blaine claims that Mulder threatened to kill him if he lied about the tape being taken. Chung tells Blaine he was brave, which Blaine credits to all his years playing Dungeons and Dragons. Scully tells Chung that Mulder was driving back from Blaine’s house when he encountered a naked Jack Schaeffer on the road. “This is not happening,” Schaeffer insists over and over.
Mulder takes Schaeffer to a diner, where he does a Close Encounters of the Third Kind with some potatoes and tells Mulder that most people lose time after seeing a UFO. He doesn’t know much about abductions, but he’s had some experience flying a UFO. He takes the abductees to a base, where they have their minds messed with until they believe they were taken by aliens. Mulder wonders what abducted Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s sure that he, Vallee, Chrissy, and Harold were all taken, but he doesn’t know by what – and he’s not sure what’s real anymore, or if he even exists.
Air Force officers arrive to collect Schaeffer, so Mulder only has time for one more question: What was the monster everyone saw with the aliens? Schaeffer IDs it as Lord Kinbote. Chung tells Scully that he ate at that same diner when he was in Klass County, and the cook told him about the night Mulder and Schaeffer were there. Mulder identified himself as an FBI agent, ordered sweet potato pie, and asked the cook about UFOs and abductions. He ate a whole pie, asking one question with each piece, and then never returned. The cook never saw Schaeffer or other Air Force officers there.
Scully tells Chung that Mulder then came to her hotel room, where the Men in Black were waiting for him. The one who talks warns him to keep quiet. The other, who looks like Alex Trebek, tells him he’s feeling sleepy and relaxed. Scully admits that she was there but doesn’t remember the encounter. She woke up the next morning to find Mulder asleep on her couch, though she didn’t remember letting him in.
Manners calls the agents to tell them the UFO has been found. But, of course, it’s being called a “top-secret experimental plane” the military didn’t want anyone to know about. The pilot’s dead, and Mulder recognizes him as Schaeffer. Manners recognizes the other dead man as Vallee. Scully knows that Chung isn’t thrilled with the ending of her story, but at least this case has more closure than a lot of the X-files.
Mulder visits Chung to ask him not to write his book. He’ll just make a misunderstood phenomenon seem even more ridiculous. Also, Chung’s publisher is owned by a company that may be part of the military industrial complex. Chung just wants to know what really happened to Chrissy and Harold. “How the hell should I know?” Mulder replies.
Chung asks him to leave so he can finish writing and take over the episode-ending voiceover. He says that people like Blaine will continue to struggle to be content on Earth, since they haven’t yet been abducted. At least Blaine has a job and gets to ride in a cherry-picker. Roky has basically become L. Ron Hubbard.
Scully reads Chung’s book, From Outer Space, where she’s called Diana Lesky and has to suffer a 9-to-5 job while she searches for aliens. Reiner Muldrake, her partner, probably struggles to get any pleasure out of life. Maybe footage of Bigfoot will help. Chrissy is now focused on bettering herself, while Harold is still focused on her. Chrissy wonders if love is all men think about. Chung thinks that people who find meaning and happiness in others are lucky, since really, we’re all alone. Cheery!
Thoughts: Chung is played by Charles Nelson Reilly, who the cast and crew gushed over and considered their favorite guest star. The Men in Black are played by Jesse Ventura and, yes, Alex Trebek.
Detective Manners is named for Kim Manners, a longtime X-Files director. The show also paid tribute to him in season 10, putting his headstone in Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.
This episode was so difficult to recap. Just know that everything that happens outside of Scully and Chung’s conversation (and then Mulder and Chung’s) is a flashback.
If you watch nothing else from this episode, you have to watch Blaine’s version of Mulder’s reaction to finding the dead “alien.” It’s in my top 10 X-Files moments of all time.