January 6, 2018

The X-Files 6.19, The Unnatural: “E.T. Steal Home”

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:25 pm by Jenn

I don’t know about you guys, but I do this with my co-workers all the time

Summary: In Roswell, New Mexico, on July 2nd, 1947, a light is shining over a mound of dirt. But it’s not a UFO, it’s a light on a baseball field. (The boundaries are marked by cacti, and sometimes the balls stick to them.) When a player named Josh Exley comes up to the plate, everyone in the outfield backs up. He hits a foul ball, but an outfielder has trouble finding it. Something out in the darkness tosses the ball back to him.

The catcher remarks that he heard the Yankees wanted to recruit Exley, but Exley says he enjoys the quiet of the “cactus league.” The catcher has heard rumors that Exley, who’s black, could be the next Jackie Robinson. Exley says he doesn’t want to be a famous man like Robinson – he just wants to be a man. He hits a home run, his 61st of the season, and his teammates lift him up in victory.

The celebration ends when Klan members ride onto the field on horses. Their leader shouts racial slurs at the other black players and mocks the white ones for hanging out with them. The meek pitcher, who’s been having trouble with his throws, gets in some practice by throwing at the Klansmen. One of the coaches unmasks the leader…who’s an alien.

In the present, there’s a baseball game, commentated by Vin Scully, on a TV at FBI headquarters. Scully’s annoyed that Mulder has her working on such a nice day. She asks if he’s ever thought about trying to find a life on this planet. Mulder says he’s tried, and that’s why he’s looking elsewhere.

Scully has brought in an ice cream cone – well, a nonfat tofutti rice dreamsicle – and taunts Mulder for spending the day looking through New Mexico obituaries from the 1940s. Why worry about people who died 50 years ago? They should let sleeping dogs lie. The two toss cliché phrases at each other until Mulder grams Scully’s snack from her. It falls on the book he’s been looking at, and Scully sees that he’s secretly been reading up on baseball.

Mulder waxes poetic about the things you can learn from box scores. Some things are the same as they were 50 years ago, like numbers. Scully asks if Mulder’s mother ever told her to go play outside. Mulder gets distracted by a photo of Arthur Dales and rips it out of the book. Scully calls him a rebel for defacing government property.

Mulder goes to Dales’ home (in D.C., not Florida), and is confused when the man there, who’s not Dales, says he is. He explains that he’s Dales’ brother, and for some reason, they have the same name. They also had a sister and a goldfish named Arthur. Dales knows who Mulder is, thanks to his brother; they’ve talked about him a lot (nothing flattering). This Dales isn’t interested in a chat, and he closes the door on Mulder.

Since Mulder has never given up on a possibly interesting story, he decides to ask some questions through the door. Why is Dales (not the original, as Mulder thought, but the brother he’s speaking to) in a picture with Exley, who disappeared in 1947 after hitting 61 home runs? And what about the third man in the picture, who looks just like the Bounty Hunter? Dales thinks Mulder’s uninterested in baseball, but Mulder is a big fan.

Dales invites Mulder in and looks through some boxes while talking about how “the baseball gods” could answer all of Mulder’s questions about government conspiracies. He asks Mulder if he believes that love and passion could make a man shape-shift. “What exactly has your brother told you about me?” Mulder asks.

He wants to know why the Dales brothers didn’t say anything about the Bounty Hunter, if they’ve known about him and colonization plans for 50 years. Dales says that no one would believe him. Mulder’s offended that Dales doesn’t think he was “ripe” enough to be told. Dales finds a coin bank shaped like a baseball player that he says will tell Mulder all he wants to know.

We go back in time to June 29th, 1947, when Dales (the brother, not the original, but played by the actor who played the original in Travelers – this episode is confusing) goes to a ballpark to meet Exley for the first time. He works for the Roswell police and has been assigned to serve as Exley’s bodyguard. Exley doesn’t want the protection, but there’s a $500 bounty on his head from the KKK, and Dales isn’t about to let anyone, no matter his race, religion, or nationality – even Canadian! – be murdered if he can prevent it.

Dales is playing on a Negro League team, the Roswell Grays, and they’re on their way to their next game. Dales studies French on the bus. Exley asks Dales if he can get them some police uniforms to play in. Dales jokes that, instead of the Grays, they could be the Black and Blues. The players pretend to be offended, but everyone has a good laugh. Later, after many of the men on the bus have fallen asleep, Dales wakes up during a thunderstorm and checks on Exley. He’s stunned to see that Exley’s reflection in his window looks like an alien.

In the present, Mulder thinks Dales is messing with him. “E.T. steal home! E.T. steal home!” he jokes. Dales insists that he’s telling the truth. In fact, all the great baseball players were aliens. That includes Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays (“well, obviously,” says Dales). None of the greats fit in on Earth or in any other world. But on the field, they did. Mulder thinks he’s being metaphorical, but Dales says he only has time to be truthful. He gets a medication delivery from a kid he calls Poor Boy.

Back in 1947, two boys, one black and one white, argue about whether or not a ball Exley hit is worth anything, since he’s not in the majors yet. Dales is in the Grays’ dugout, practically part of the team now. They even share chaw with him (though it makes him sick). There’s a big crowd at the game, so Dales is on the lookout, and he tackles Exley to protect him from what he thinks is a gun. It turns out to squirt water, so Dales says Exley had a bee on him. (This freaking show and freaking bees.)

Later in the game, Exley gets hit by a pitch, and when his team checks on his mental state, he starts speaking an unrecognizable language. After a moment, he recovers, and when they ask where he’s from, he says Macon. The others don’t give the weird moment a second thought. But Dales goes to collect Exley’s glove and finds an acidic green substance on it.

Dales goes to a police station and calls Exley’s hometown, Macon, to do a background check on him. At the same time, he hands over Exley’s glove for testing. A Macon officer is very interested in Exley’s current whereabouts, as he disappeared five years ago…when he was six years old. The officer is also interested in Exley’s whereabouts because he’s the Bounty Hunter.

The two boys who were arguing earlier hang around the Grays’ dugout during their next game. The white one, called Poor Boy, tells Exley that some Yankee scouts are there to watch him. Exley plays poorly in the game, so Poor Boy thinks he’ll lose his chance at playing in the majors. As soon as the disappointed scouts leave, Exley hits a home run.

On the bus after the game, Dales confronts Exley for tanking the game, then reveals that he knows Josh Exley isn’t his real name – he took the missing boy’s identity. Exley denies that he’s from Macon, though Dales points out that he said he was after he was hit in the game. Exley says he also spoke in tongues, like he did in church when he was a kid. He says he was joking around.

Dales knows Exley’s trying to stay out of the spotlight because he’s hiding something. But tanking the game means he disappointed the fans, his teammates, and his race. That last one hits Exley hard. Dales is determined to find out his secret, but Exley warns that he’d better be looking into the right secret. In the team’s motel that night, Dales hears some noises from Exley’s room. He picks the lock, lets himself in, and sees an alien. Both of them scream in surprise, and Dales passes out.

Exley revives Dales, who immediately passes out again. Exley gives him water, but that only revives him briefly. “You’re supposed to be a big, bad policeman,” Exley chastises. When Dales is finally conscious, he thinks he’s dreaming. Exley confirms that this is what he really looks like. He shifts into the appearance of a woman, asking if that makes it easier for Dales to handle the revelation. Dales says that makes it weirder. Someone comes in looking for Exley and sees Dales with a hot woman instead.

On the bus the next day, Exley quietly tells Dales that his fellow aliens wanted him to keep to himself and not intermingle with humans. Dales guesses that he broke the rules because he came to Earth and fell in love with a woman. Exley laughs and says that he fell in love with baseball. His people don’t laugh or smile, but seeing his first baseball game brought joy out of him. It was the first “unnecessary” thing he’d ever experienced, and he couldn’t make himself go home. The players start a singalong, harmonizing on “Come and Go With Me to That Land.”

The bus’ journey turns into a ’40s TV commercial for Gray Bus Lines. The tagline, voiced over by Vin Scully, is “you can go home again.” In the present, Mulder guesses that Exley made himself appear black so people wouldn’t be suspicious not to see him in the majors. He thinks Dales is implying that Exley had something to do with the Roswell crash in July of 1947. Dales tells him to stop jumping to conclusions and “trust the tale.” Things that fascinate us are true. (This, contrary to what Dales said before, is a metaphor.)

Mulder still isn’t sure if Exley was an alien or a hybrid. He admits that he’s an idiot. As the Bounty Hunter appears on the 1940s broadcast on Dales’ TV, Dales says that since Exley had the same characteristics that make a man a man, he was human. Back in 1947, the Bounty Hunter stashes a body in a car trunk, then goes to meet the rest of the team.

Dales learns that the green stuff on Exley’s glove is from a lifeform that isn’t carbon-based. He’s called around to ask questions, but Dales tells him to keep quiet. He just wants the glove back. Exley – or someone who looks like Exley – shows up at the tech’s lab, saying Dales sent him to get his lab. He attacks the tech, then morphs into the Bounty Hunter.

The real Exley is at a ball field, and when Dales finds him there, he warns that he’s being accused of murder. Instead of running away, like Dales suggests, Exley wants to toss the ball around for a little while. He reveals that he talked to his family and wants to go home. He doesn’t have the sense of loyalty that would keep him on Earth, playing for humans. His family is still his family. Sirens approach, and Exley decides it’s time to leave. He asks Dales to tell people, including his kids, how good Exley was.

Dales doesn’t cooperate with the local cops, just telling them that Exley said he was going home. Dales refuses to betray Exley, even if it means he’s considered an accomplice or loses his job. After the police leave, Dales finds a map of the desert, with a home plate drawn on it.

We revisit the game from the beginning of the episode, and see that everyone fled after the Klan leader was unmasked. It’s the Bounty Hunter, there to kill Exley. Dales drives out there to save Exley, who says that dying would be the right thing to do. The Bounty Hunter is disgusted that Exley would risk the project for a game. Exley takes one last moment of pride in his 61st home run.

The Bounty Hunter wants Exley to show his true face in his moment of death. The Bounty Hunter goes first, morphing into an alien. Exley says that the face he’s wearing is his true face; he won’t shift. Dales arrives just as the Bounty Hunter is riding away, having icepicked Exley. Dales doesn’t care that Exley’s blood could harm him – it’s regular red blood, not green acid. Exley laughs, then dies in Dales’ arms. “Come and Go With Me to That Land” plays as current-day Dales remembers the moment. “I got a brother in that land where I’m bound,” the song says.

Scully finds Mulder at a batting cage, having been summoned by a message from “Fox Mantle.” He wants to give her a birthday present, though it’s not her birthday. Mulder knows that she’s never hit a baseball. Scully says no; she’s found more necessary things to do. He shows her how to hold the bat, telling her he’s paying Poor Boy to shag balls and run the pitching machine.

Poor Boy’s totally going to go home and tell his parents how he saw two FBI agents with their hands all over each other, because…seriously. Mulder helps Scully hit some balls, joking about all the stuff he puts her through. “Shut up, Mulder. I’m playing baseball,” she tells him. Up in the night sky, some of the stars shine brighter than the others.

Thoughts: This episode was written and directed by David Duchovny.

Exley is played by Jesse L. Martin. The second Dales is played by M. Emmet Walsh.

Darrin McGavin (the original Dales) was supposed to be in the episode but had to step out because he got sick. They wrote in the character of his brother, but I guess didn’t bother to come up with a new name.

Vin Scully (the namesake of Dana Scully, by the way) recorded his part for free because of budget issues.

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