June 23, 2018

The X-Files 7.21, Je Souhaite: When You Wish Upon a Powerful Spirit from Middle Eastern Folklore

Posted in TV tagged at 1:15 pm by Jenn

This is what I wanted, and I didn’t even have to wish for it

Summary: In Creve Coeur, Missouri, a man drives a golf cart around a storage facility, looking for a man named Anson Stokes. Anson is slacking on the job, but his boss, Jay, eventually finds him and chastises him. He warns that Anson will never own a boat like the ones in the magazine he’s reading if he doesn’t do his job. He tells Anson to clean out storage cube 407, which Anson discovers is full of furniture. There’s also a rolled-up rug, which Anson soon learns has a woman’s body inside it (not, as you might suspect, a dead body). When Jay comes back to check up on his employee, Anson and the woman are both gone. Jay yells until suddenly his mouth disappears.

About a month later, Jay goes to D.C. to discuss the case with Mulder and Scully. He can only have the discussion because his mouth has been reconstructed. Jay blames Anson for his condition, though Anson won’t talk to the police. The agents quickly head to the Mark Twain Trailer Court in Missouri, discussing whether or not Jay’s condition could have a medical explanation. You can probably guess which of them says it may and which says it doesn’t. The debate ends when the agents see a huge boat parked next to Anson’s trailer.

Insider, Anson sees the agents and thinks they’re from the IRS. He tells his brother, Leslie, to get rid of them. Leslie tries to play it cool, which lasts about five seconds. When he learns the agents are with the FBI, Leslie blurts that the boat isn’t theirs; they’re just holding it for someone else. I have a feeling Leslie spent a lot of his teenage years lying that he was just holding things for someone else. Mulder sees the woman from the rug in the brothers’ kitchen, then tells Leslie they’re there to talk to Anson about Jay. Leslie blames chemicals for his missing mouth. Maybe someone has a meth lab in a storage cube.

The agents next go to cube 407, which has been untouched since Jay lost his mouth there. Mulder finds a calendar from 1978, guessing that’s when the cube was first rented. Scully notes that the furniture is pretty expensive. Anson disappeared for a few days after Jay lost his mouth; maybe Anson stole something from the cube and sold it to get money for his boat. Of course, that doesn’t explain what happened to Jay. Mulder finds a photo of a man from the ’70s with two attractive women at his sides. The woman from the rug is also in the picture, looking exactly as she did in the Stokes’ kitchen.

At the trailer park, Anson complains that he’s “two down” but has nothing to show for it. The woman from the rug tells him his boat is a white elephant that serves no purpose. Anson complains that he didn’t find her any water to put it in. She says he didn’t specify that he wanted the boat to go in the water. Anson can’t use the boat, and he can’t pay the taxes due on it, so it really is useless. Leslie suggests that he use his last wish to get rid of it. Anson reminds his brother that he wasted his first two wishes, so he’s not going to waste his third.

He wants to clarify with the woman that he’s in brainstorming mode right now, so if he accidentally says “I wish,” that doesn’t mean he’s actually using his third wish yet. The woman suggests that he use it to give Jay his mouth back. Anson argues that he didn’t officially wish for Jay to lose his mouth, so it shouldn’t have counted. Leslie thinks Anson should wish for money, but Anson takes it a step further, thinking they should wish for something that generates money. “Brains? Talent? Hard work?” the woman suggests.

Leslie wants a money machine, since that would literally generate money. Then he thinks of an infinite number of wishes. The woman tells them they only get three. She gestures to Leslie, who uses a motorized scooter to get around, trying to indicate that Anson should wish for his brother to be able to walk again. Anson doesn’t get the hint. He finally decides on his third wish: the ability to turn invisible at will. He could be a spy! The woman thinks this is unoriginal, but she doesn’t really get a say in the matter, so she grants the wish.

Anson isn’t sure his clothes will turn invisible when he does, so he strips before he tries out his new power. It works, and Anson runs outside to go see the world, or whatever. He’s so focused on crossing a busy street to bug a couple of pretty women that he doesn’t pay attention to the traffic. And since he’s invisible, the driver of a truck speeding by doesn’t see him, so Anson goes squish.

A biker riding past hits Anson’s unseen body, which is eventually brought to a local morgue for Scully to autopsy. At first it looks like there’s nothing on the table, but Scully can feel the body, which freaks her out. She uses some yellow powder to make it visible, enjoying herself a little. When Mulder joins her, Scully says that this is one of the most amazing things she’s seen in their seven years working together. This could change the face of science.

Mulder disagrees, having gathered information on the man from the ’70s picture. His name was Henry, and he became super-rich practically overnight. Then he died of…basically, a giant erection. Mulder thinks the woman from the kitchen is the key to this case. He wants to find her, but Scully thinks she should stay with Anson’s body.

Mulder returns to the Stokes’ trailer, where someone has written “you suck!” on the side of the boat. He’s surprised that Leslie isn’t shocked to hear that Anson was invisible when his body was found. Mulder thinks the woman, who’s since disappeared, is a jinniyah, a spirit or demon from Middle Eastern folklore. In common parlance, she’s a genie. The two men sing the I Dream of Jeannie theme song together before Mulder points out that the genie on that show never killed anyone. He thinks Anson found the genie’s living quarters and made some wishes.

Leslie agrees to hand over the genie’s living quarters, but instead of the rug, he gives Mulder a little box. Then he goes to cube 407, where the rug is again rolled up around a body. Mulder goes back to the morgue, where Scully reluctantly puts Anson’s body in a drawer and checks out the box. Mulder has already guessed that it’s not the genie’s home.

He’s contacted Quantico and used their facial-recognition software to find pictures of the genie (who, from here on out, we’ll call Jenn, since that’s what Mulder dubs her later, and I’m sick of not having a name for her). She’s present at one of Benito Mussolini’s speeches and at an event with Richard Nixon. Mulder thinks both men got their power through wishes Jenn granted.

Leslie takes Jenn back to his trailer, ready to make three wishes. Jenn finally says out loud that he should use one to address his disability. Leslie, like Anson, doesn’t get it; he thinks she means he should wish for a solid gold wheelchair. But there’s a wish he wants granted even more than that. Water for the boat? No, probably not.

Scully contacts some science-y people to come see Anson’s body, but when she doesn’t see him in his drawer, she figures the powder somehow came off and he’s just invisible again. She’s wrong. Zombie Anson is back in the trailer with his brother, and no one’s happy with the situation. Jenn points out that Anson was hit by a truck, so his condition wouldn’t have been great even if he hadn’t been brought back from the dead. He can’t even talk. So Leslie uses his second wish to give his brother the ability to speak. He immediately regrets it, since all Anson does is yell in horror.

Scully feels stupid about her show-and-tell failure and inability to prove that she was in contact with an invisible man. Mulder has already figured out that Anson was brought back from the dead, thanks to Leslie. At the trailer, Anson finally stops yelling and tells Leslie how awful his situation is. Leslie regrets wasting two wishes on his ungrateful brother. He at least turns up the heat in the trailer, since Anson’s cold, but it’s not enough, so Anson goes to light the stove. As Leslie considers his third wish and the agents arrive outside, Anson lights the stove, and all the gas that’s been pouring out of it. The trailer blows up.

Jenn and her rug land unharmed after the blast, so Mulder finally gets the chance to question her. Scully’s disappointed that Anson is visible again. She asks Jenn how his body got to the trailer park. Jenn tells her to ask Mulder, since she knows he’s figured everything out. Mulder says he still hasn’t decided if Jenn is a good genie or a bad genie. Could she be cursed? Jenn says all of mankind is cursed with stupidity – they always ask for the wrong thing. Over 500 years, people haven’t changed (though they do smell better now). They’re all shallow and self-destructive.

Scully can’t wrap her mind around the fact that Jenn has been around for 500+ years. Jenn explains that she was human once. She was born in France in the 15th century, and she unrolled a rug one day and discovered an ifrit, a very powerful genie. She wished for a stouthearted mule, a sack that was always full of turnips, and “great power and long life.” This turned her into a genie and made her regret not being more specific.

Since Jenn hasn’t committed any crimes and the agents can’t actually prove that she granted the Stokes’ wishes, Scully tells her she’s free to go. Jenn says she’s not – Mulder unrolled her, so he gets three wishes. He’s pleased by this turn of events. The three head home to D.C., and Mulder takes Jenn to his place while he contemplates his wishes. He asks Jenn what she would ask for. Jenn says it doesn’t matter, but she’d wish that she’d never heard of wishes before. She’d rather enjoy her life than worry about what it isn’t. She’d just sit down with some coffee and watch the world.

Mulder thinks people screw up their wishes because they just want things for themselves. (Jenn says it’s “like a chimpanzee with a revolver.”) He wants to give altruism a shot, so he wishes for peace on earth. Jenn grants this, but not in the way Mulder had expected. Instead of removing conflict, she just removes all the humans from the planet. Let it be known that the first person Mulder thinks of is Scully. He runs to the FBI building to find her, but she’s part of humankind, so she’s gone.

Mulder summons Jenn and chastises her for purposely twisting his words. She asks if he really expected her to change everyone’s hearts, even though religion has never been able to do that. She guesses that Mulder wishes he hadn’t screwed up his first wish. He says he does, then rants that not everyone is evil and selfish, and Jenn is awful. He doesn’t realize that Jenn has undone his first wish, and people have returned to the planet, including the conference room he’s in. Skinner and some other agents hear the whole rant.

In order to ensure that Jenn fulfills his third wish exactly as he requests, Mulder types up a sort of contract. Scully comes to his office to talk to him about the rant Skinner said he went on. She asks Jenn to leave, and when Jenn disappears without a trace, Mulder suggests that she used the same trick as Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. He still wants to make a perfect wish that benefits everyone in the world. Scully thinks the point of life is for humans to bring that about themselves, without a shortcut. Scully leaves, Jenn returns, and Mulder ditches his contract to make his third wish.

That night, he invites Scully over to watch Caddyshack and drink beer. He notes that he obviously didn’t make the world a better place with his third wish. Scully says she’s happy, at least. She asks what the wish was, but Mulder doesn’t answer. Somewhere in the world, Jenn gets a cup of coffee, ready to sit and watch the world for the first time in 500 years.

Thoughts: Leslie is played by Will Sasso. Anson is played by Kevin Weisman, who fulfilled Anson’s wish to be a spy with his role on Alias.

I’m adding Jenn to my list of my favorite one-episode characters. Paula Sorge plays her perfectly.

I love that when Scully puts Anson’s body in the morgue drawer, she whispers goodbye to it. She’d gotten attached!

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