June 9, 2018

The X-Files 7.19, Hollywood A.D.: Jesus, Mary, and Mulder

Posted in TV tagged at 1:25 pm by Jenn

Living the dream, right?

Summary: A gun battle is taking place in a cemetery, and a man yells for Mulder to give up because his sniper zombies are everywhere. In case that wasn’t strange enough, Mulder isn’t Mulder – he’s Garry Shandling. The yelling man is supposed to be CSM, and he offers to trade Scully for something called the Lazarus Bowl. Scully isn’t Scully; she’s Tea Leoni. Garry/Mulder threatens to break the bowl if the fake CSM doesn’t release his fake partner. The bowl’s destruction will render the zombies dead again.

Fake CSM (who’s dressed in religious garb) knows that Garry/Mulder won’t break the bowl, since it’s his Holy Grail. It’s engraved with the words Jesus spoke when he raised Lazarus from the dead. The words can still be used to raise the dead now (hence the zombies). It’s proof of the paranormal, and fake CSM knows Garry/Mulder won’t smash it any more than he’d let something happen to Scully.

A zombie appeals to Garry/Mulder, saying he doesn’t want to go back to being dead. If he saves the bowl, the zombies will ditch the fake CSM and serve Garry/Mulder instead. But Garry/Mulder “would rather serve in Heaven than rule in Hell,” so he tosses the bowl in the air. As the zombies and CSM rush to save it, Garry/Mulder tackles Tea/Scully and they land in a coffin. She asks if she’s feeling his flashlight against her leg, or if he’s just happy to see her. It’s his flashlight.

The action is taking place in a movie being screened at Darryl Zanuck Theater in Hollywood. The audience, which includes David Alan Grier and Minnie Driver, is pleased to see “Mulder” and “Scully” finally kiss, after “Mulder” declares his love, “no ifs, ands, or–” “bees.” The real Scully is uncomfortable watching this unfold, and Mulder full-on hates it. Skinner, however, is enjoying the film and the popcorn.

18 months earlier, Skinner tells Mulder and Scully about a pipe bomb at Crypt of Christ’s Church. A man sitting in the room with them says into a tape recorder that Scully is like “Jodie Foster’s foster child in a Payless budget,” and Mulder is “a Jehovah’s Witness meets Harrison Ford’s Witness.” The agents try to ignore them. Scully recognizes the church as being headed by a Cardinal O’Fallon, a big name in Catholicism who’s been considered the possible first American Pope. Mulder thinks this is a terrorist attack that the ATF should handle.

When the man listening in lets his phone keep ringing instead of answering it, the agents can no longer ignore his presence. Skinner tells Mulder and Scully that he’s a college friend named Wayne Federman. He’s working on a screenplay about FBI agents and wants to see what their procedure is all about. His movie will be like a cross between Silence of the Lambs and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Skinner tells Mulder that Wayne will go to the church with him while Scully stays behind. Mulder asks if he’s being punished.

On the way to the church, Wayne asks if Mulder and Scully are more than partners. Mulder won’t give an answer, which we all know is “yes.” He meets with O’Fallon, who says there’s nothing in the crypt worth targeting; it just contains bones, relics, and documents. It’s like God’s refrigerator. (Wayne loves that line.) Wayne asks if the church has the Shroud of Turin. O’Fallon says no, but they do have St. Peter’s bathrobe.

The cardinal takes the agents to the crypt, where Wayne’s phone goes off again as Mulder says that he thinks the bomb was a message. Wayne realizes the ringing phone isn’t his – it’s one buried under some rocks. Wayne asks if it’s St. Jude’s cell phone. Mulder IDs it as belonging to Micah Hoffman, one-third of his Holy Trinity. (The other two are Willie Mays and Frank Serpico.) It’s lying atop a very dead body.

Scully joins Mulder and Wayne, and they talk about Hoffman’s role as a ’60s radical who vanished in the ’70s, after Altamont. Mulder asks Scully what she was doing back at work, but she just says paperwork. The agents and their new shadow go to Hoffman’s studio, where they find a bomb in progress. Scully guesses that he accidentally killed himself in the crypt. Wayne makes some puns about Hoffman’s bomb and forgery habits until Mulder shuts him up, because he’s the only one who can make puns around here.

The agents find a text written in Greek, which Scully translates as a Gospel of Mary Magdalene. It’s a heretical account of Jesus’ life post-resurrection. Scully thinks Hoffman forged it, and Wayne wonders what O’Fallon would be doing with the forgeries. He likes the way the agents work, doing their own thing without permission. The men go back to the crypt and find a skeleton and pages of the forged gospel. Wayne asks if it’s a real fake or a fake fake.

Wayne takes a phone call, not noticing when a skull skitters across the floor, out of his path. Some bones assemble themselves, and a hand bone steals Wayne’s flashlight so the bones can have some light as they try to reassemble a broken bowl. Wayne tells the agents what happened later at a diner; Scully thinks he hallucinated, but Wayne believes he saw CGI special effects. He doesn’t really care either way – he just wants to go write his movie. He also thinks both agents are crazy, Mulder for believing what he does, and Scully for not believing it.

After Wayne leaves, Scully tells Mulder that the story reminds her of the Lazarus Bowl, a story one of her nun teachers told. She was the Mulder of Scully’s school and told the kids about a bowl spun by Lazarus’ aunt while Jesus spoke the words that brought Lazarus back to life. The words became etched in the bowl like music in a record. “It’s just not true that you can’t get good science at Catholic school,” Mulder quips. According to Sister Spooky, the words in the clay can still raise the dead.

Mulder sends Scully back to their office with the bowl so our buddy Chuck Burks can determine if it still plays “Christ’s greatest hits.” Chuck tells Scully that everything vibrates, even if we can’t hear it or have learned to block it out. The bowl vibrates at a frequency they can hear, and it sounds like all the keys of music at once. Chuck describes it as “heavenly.”

Mulder goes back to see O’Fallon, who translates a passage of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. According to this gospel, Jesus and Mary got it on. Mulder tells him all the documents in the crypt were forgeries, though they’re very good forgeries. O’Fallon bought them from Hoffman but doesn’t know why he was in the crypt or why someone might want to kill him. O’Fallon admits that he bought the texts to hide them from others who might feel the way he did when he read them – angry at Jesus for not being perfect after all.

Scully’s back in her office when Mulder calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) and asks her to do Hoffman’s autopsy. He thinks Hoffman was already dead when the bomb went off, killed by O’Fallon over the documents. Scully tells Mulder that the bowl has properties Chuck has never seen before. Wayne calls Mulder and asks who should play him in the movie. Mulder suggests Richard Gere, which just makes Wayne laugh. It’ll be Garry Shandling, and he and Tea Leoni want to meet Mulder and Scully in Hollywood. Gere will be playing Skinner.

Scully is performing Hoffman’s autopsy when his corpse sits up and starts talking to her. She drops her scalpel, and when she bends down to pick it up, accidentally cutting herself, the corpse returns to its table, dead again. Mulder comes to the lab, and Scully tells him that Hoffman had wine and poison in his stomach. Mulder thinks O’Fallon poisoned his communion wine.

They get an arrest warrant but wait until O’Fallon’s finished performing Mass before they approach him. Scully genuflects before a cross, then sees the sculpture of Jesus come to life and speak to her. Of course, it goes back to normal, and she tries to brush off what she saw. As soon as the Mass is over, Mulder arrests O’Fallon…but has to stop when a very much alive Micah Hoffman enters the sanctuary.

Skinner yells at his agents for the misidentification back in his office. Scully points out that the corpse in the crypt looked like Hoffman and had his phone with it. “If I’m carrying Marilyn Monroe’s purse, do you assume that I slept with JFK?” Skinner asks. Somehow, Mulder restrains himself from making any comments. He notes that O’Fallon is hiding something, and Hoffman has committed forgery, so there’s still a crime to investigate. Skinner tells the agents to leave both men alone and be glad they still have their jobs. They’re on leave for the next four weeks.

Chuck has found something else in the bowl – a voice speaking Aramaic. The first part is Beatles lyrics, but the second is a command for a man to rise from the dead. The agents go to Hoffman’s studio, where he explains that after Altamont, he chose a life of crime over law school. He targeted O’Fallon because he loves God but doesn’t care about people – “he has Christ in his brain but not in his heart.”

Hoffman studied Jesus as if he were researching an acing role, then gave O’Fallon the forgeries. Afterward, Hoffman underwent a conversion like Saul on the road to Damascus. He went from impersonating Jesus to actually being him. He set off the bomb in the crypt to destroy the blasphemous forgeries. Mulder asks how the phone wound up in the crypt. “God works in mysterious ways,” Hoffman replies.

Scully goes to Mulder’s place that night, unable to sleep. He’s watching Plan 9 from Outer Space for the umpteenth time, reciting all the dialogue. Watching the movie helps him work through cases. Scully asks if it’s at all possible that Hoffman is really Jesus. Mulder says no, but “crazy people can be very persuasive.” Scully wonders if faith is just a form of insanity. He reminds her that a broken clock is right 730 times a year. Then he admits that he’s seen the movie 42 times.

The characters in the movie start talking about Hollywood, which reminds Mulder of Wayne’s invitation for the agents to come out there. Since they have four weeks off, this is the perfect time to go. Out in California, they meet Garry and Tea, the latter of whom asks Scully for tips on running in heels. Scully runs back and forth in the background while Garry asks Mulder questions that will help him develop his character.

The agents watch a scene being filmed, kicked off by a director yelling, “Kick it in the a$%” a la longtime X-Files director Kim Manners. But a zombie quickly ends the scene, complaining about the turkey he bit off of Tea’s shoulder. He’s a vegetarian, like half the zombies in the cast, and he can’t work like this.

That night, Scully calls Mulder from her hotel room (“Mulder, it’s me”), where she’s taking a bubble bath. She claims she’s packing, and he claims he’s working on his computer, but he’s also in a bubble bath. He wonders why zombies always want to hurt people when they come back from the dead. Scully psychoanalyzes them, saying they’re the animalistic part of humans. Mulder thinks they just want to party – eat, drink, dance, and make love. Scully laughs that they have a gentler side.

Skinner calls Mulder to apologize for being so hard on him over the O’Fallon case. He’s also in Hollywood, having gotten an associate producer credit on the movie, and is also taking a bubble bath, though he at least admits it. Mulder tries to switch back to his call with Scully to spill the news but accidentally stays on the line with Skinner. When Mulder switches over to Scully for real, she tells him that she thinks Tea has a crush on him, and Garry may, too.

Fast-forward to the movie premiere, and the awkward love scene in the coffin. Tea/Scully puts the brakes on it by announcing that she’s in love with Skinner. The real Mulder blurts that he can’t take it anymore and leaves the theater. On the screen, Garry/Mulder asks what Skinner has that he doesn’t. “A bigger flashlight,” Tea/Scully replies. No confirmation whether this is true, but Skinner does have a young, attractive date.

Scully finds Mulder back on the movie set, eating popcorn from a commemorative Lazarus Bowl. Scully has just heard that Hoffman was murdered in his home by O’Fallon, who then killed himself. Mulder compares them to Jesus and Judas. Scully thinks this is really the end of the case, but Mulder says it’s just starting. Because of the movie, O’Fallon will never be taken seriously. He’s even listed in the movie’s credits as Cigarette-Smoking Pontiff. The whole thing is a joke now, and Mulder and Scully will be remembered that way.

Mulder babbles about dead people’s reputations and the plastic sheen of Hollywood. Scully says the dead don’t care what people think about them. The movie set is fake; there aren’t really zombies there. Mulder says dead people are everywhere. Scully reminds him that they’re not, and Skinner gave her a bureau credit card, so the should go do something fun. As they leave the set, she tells Mulder she’s in love with Skinner. Mulder leaves his bowl on the head of a statue, and a tree branch scraps it like a record needle. A bunch of zombies on the set rise from the dead and dance.

Thoughts: David Duchovny wrote and directed this episode. He was, of course, married to Tea Leoni at the time, and was good friends with Garry Shandling. He had also just done Return to Me (a really good movie) with Minnie Driver and David Alan Grier, which explains their cameos.

O’Fallon is played by Harris Yulin.

This is one of those episodes that’s better in theory than in execution. It’s too cutesy and jokey for its own good.

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