June 29, 2019

The X-Files 11.4, The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat: The Mandela/Mengele Effect

Posted in TV tagged at 1:41 pm by Jenn

But was he a believer or a skeptic?

Summary: A man in a diner is distressed because Martians have invaded Earth and no one else seems to care. Everything’s in black and white. A waiter serves him coffee and asks for more information. The man says the Martians use a ray that makes people forget. He spots one through the window, but the waiter tells him he’s really looking in a mirror. The man is a Martian, and the waiter isn’t human, either.

Someone fuzzy bursts into Mulder’s house, where the phone is ringing. No, wait – it’s just Mulder in a suit made of grass and moss. Scully’s calling (“Mulder, it’s me”), and she’s been trying to reach him all day. He tells her he was out hunting for Bigfoot. He didn’t have any luck, but that wasn’t the point. He just wanted a break from watching the news and worrying about the country.

Scully confirms that they’re having dinner the next night, and Mulder takes advantage of the conversation to start telling a story he’s told many times about finding a Bigfoot print 35 years ago. He still has an impression of the print. Scully hangs up on him, not wanting to hear the story again.

Sometime later, Mulder goes to a parking garage and meets up with a man named Reggie (he doesn’t get a name yet, but I’m not typing “the man” over and over), who greets him with “Mulder, it’s me.” He thought they were done working together, but he’s stumbled upon a huge conspiracy. Mulder doesn’t know who Reggie is, but Reggie says it’s because “they” made him forget. In the process, Mulder’s also forgotten some things about aliens.

Hearing sirens, Mulder says Reggie’s ride must be here and starts to leave. Reggie reminds him of the first Twilight Zone episode he ever saw, “The Lost Martian.” That episode doesn’t really exist. They hear someone approaching, and as Mulder turns to see who it is, joking that it would be funny if it were Rod Serling, Reggie disappears.

Mulder goes home and searches through boxes of videotapes, trying to find “The Lost Martian.” He tells Scully that he thought Reggie must be crazy for thinking it doesn’t exist…but now Mulder can’t find any record of it ever existing. Scully thinks he just confused The Twilight Zone with a similar show, like The Outer Limits. Mulder finds that possibility ridiculous: “Do you even know me?!”

Scully says it can’t be that good of an episode, and can’t they just go get some food? Mulder says the episode isn’t the point, it’s about his memories of watching the show as a kid. In a truly bizarre scene, we see a young Mulder – with adult Mulder’s head – watching “The Lost Martian,” and loving the twist where the man and waiter in the diner are both non-humans. Once again, Scully ditches in the middle of the conversation.

She runs into Reggie in the parking garage, who knows she just saw Mulder. She guesses that he’s Reggie (who calls her “Sculls”), since Mulder gave a good description of him and his forehead sweat. Reggie asks her to help him find someone: Him. “They’re” trying to erase him. He gives Scully a box of gelatin mix and tells her his fingerprints are on the box. He yells that she needs to prove that he’s real. He runs as two men approach, dressed like the man who interrupted him and Mulder.

Scully takes the box to Mulder at their office, and they discuss the gelatin, which forms three different layers when it cools. Mulder wonders how that’s never been an X-File. The gelatin is a treasured memory from Scully’s childhood (just the cherry, though; the lemon-lime “tasted like leprechaun taint”), but she’s never been able to find it. It’s called Goop-O A-B-C, and everyone thinks she means Jell-O 1-2-3.

Mulder tells her it’s the Mandela Effect, the phenomenon where someone has a memory of something that didn’t happen. For example, people think Shaq did a movie called Shazaam, but they’re probably thinking of Kazaam. Scully doesn’t remember either movie. “You win!” Mulder exclaims. She thinks his false memory of The Twilight Zone fits here, too, but Mulder insists that that episode really exists.

Scully asks about Reggie, whose fingerprints from the box didn’t turn up anything. Mulder says he plans to meet with Reggie again; he’s already put an X on his window to summon him. Scully doesn’t want to intrude on their private meeting, but Mulder thinks Reggie wants her involved. He says he’ll be like a date. Yeah, a date with a sweaty fifth wheel.

The agents wait in the FBI headquarters parking garage until Reggie comes out of the shadows again. He introduces himself, saying he thinks his name is Reggie, but he doesn’t know his last name. He was unpacking some of his childhood things that his mother kept, and he had a Mandela Effect moment: Dr. Wussle, who wrote some of his beloved childhood books, now spelled his name Wuzzle. Reggie didn’t handle it well.

Mulder explains the Mandela Effect, which Reggie says is actually the Mengele Effect. When Mulder protests, Reggie says he’s “having a Mengele Effect about the Mandela Effect.” Anyway, Reggie’s search for answers took him to a store that sells old Americana. He found a cartoon Dr. Wussle/Wuzzle drew in 1940, and it spells his name Wuzzle. The store owner says Reggie’s suffering from the Mengele Effect.

Over the past couple of years, numerous customers have had the same experience, recalling things differently than they appear to be. The owner thinks the government knows about it, too. Can we really believe that Goop-O A-B-C wasn’t full of carcinogens back when it was being sold in the ’70s? Well, that explains some things about Scully.

Reggie tells the agents that someone is intentionally orchestrating the Mengele Effect. Like George Orwell said, “he who controls the past controls the future.” Companies will pay or do anything to make people forget about, say, their products blowing up. Reggie just can’t figure out how they’re doing it. Scully protests that it’s not possible; people are just remembering things wrong.

Mulder thinks this is about parallel universes. Somehow, ours is becoming intertwined with another, and people are remembering things from another dimension. “That’s science, Scully,” Mulder says. She and Reggie won’t go down that road, though Mulder doesn’t think it’s any crazier than Reggie’s theory. Scully reminds them of Occam’s Razor, which Reggie says is actually called Ozzie’s Razor.

Reggie says that since he’s the only one with proof of the plot, he thinks the people in charge of the conspiracy are now targeting him. He looked through his high school yearbook and can’t find any evidence that he attended that school. Scully says he’s probably just misremembering high school, like everyone does. But Reggie knows something bigger is going on, because the memorabilia shop owner is dead.

Reggie went back to the store looking for a candy shaped like watermelon slices that tasted like coconut. He found the store owner dead, having been impaled by a lawn dart. Scully doesn’t know what that is. She figures the store owner accidentally killed himself while playing with a dangerous toy. Like Mulder, she hears sirens and tells Reggie his ride is there. Reggie thinks that, even if he’s a conspiracy nut, he has to be right about some conspiracies. Mulder tells him he needs to explain who “they” are. Without details, the agents can’t help.

Reggie gives them a picture of a man in fancy clothes, which takes us to a little movie about him. His name is Thaddeus They, and while developing one-way space flights for NASA and something called a soy bomb, he devised a technique to alter memories. He wanted to help astronauts complete their missions without being burdened by memories of life back on Earth. But They was fired for also making them think they were chimps.

They went to Grenada and worked more on his memory-altering methods, which is how we got stuff like Holocaust denial and people forgetting that They starred in a movie called Ka-Blaam. They hasn’t been seen or heard of for years, though there are rumors that he was at the 2016 inauguration, among the millions of attendees. (Cough.) He clung to the top of the Washington Monument, wearing a MAGA hat.

The agents think the video is ridiculous. Reggie tells them he confirmed They’s time in Grenada. He laughs when Mulder outlines the reasons the U.S. invaded Grenada in the ’80s, claiming no one remembers the real reasons. Not even him, and he was there. When he was 18, he wrote some things there, to be read when he turned 50. But it’s all redacted, possibly by Reggie himself, as a joke. The important part is that there’s a UFO stamp on the letter. Mulder explains that the prime minister claimed they found a dead alien in the ocean.

Reggie says that he was at the hospital when the not-actually-dead alien was brought in. So was They. He said the alien had been sent to Earth to warn people about holes in the ozone layer. In 35 years, another alien would come to see if humans had avoided environmental catastrophe. (Spoiler: We hadn’t.) Reggie got a good look at the alien, which appeared to speak to They telepathically. But then a bunch of Men in Black showed up and took the alien away.

Reggie isn’t sure if he repressed the memory or if They erased it, but seeing the stamp brought everything back. This is too much for Scully, so she leaves. Mulder tells Reggie that his theory is possible, but not likely, so he’s out, too. Reggie continues his story anyway. He still remembers the alien’s telepathic yelling. In an attempt to find out what happened to the alien, Reggie dropped out of med school and joined the FBI…where he started the X-Files.

This finally makes the agents stop and listen. Reggie insists that he and Mulder used to be partners. Video “evidence” shows an alternate opening for the show, with an a capella theme song. It stars Fox Mulder, Dana Scully. and Reggie Something. Everything’s the same, except Reggie is now in the credit scenes with the other two agents. He’s the person who got the “I want to believe” poster, which is what he called to tell Mulder about in “The Unusual Suspects.”

More alternate scenes: Reggie was in the office when Scully first met Mulder, though Reggie called Scully “sugar boobs” and told her women weren’t allowed in the X-Files. He was there when the agents first encountered Tooms (“That guy is soooooo creepy!” Reggie sing-songed) and when Clyde Bruckman talked to Mulder about possible ramifications for seeing the future. Reggie was confused because Bruckman mentioned the U.S. invading Grenada.

Reggie was also there when the agents were trying to figure out what was going on in “Teso Dos Bichos.” “Guys, if this turns out to be killer cats, I’m going to be very disappointed,” Reggie said, speaking for the whole audience. In addition, he helped them find Mrs. Peacock in “Home,” and was the one who interrupted Scully and the fake Mulder in “Small Potatoes” (then shot the fake Mulder). The agents don’t remember any of that, or their last case with Reggie. That means They has targeted them, knowing they’re the only people who can stop him.

Scully insists that there is no They. Reggie says the men who keep approaching them are his henchmen. There are more of them now, in the same gray suits as the others, but there are also two men in black suits approaching. The men in gray chase Reggie into the building while Mulder and Scully stop the men in black. They’re FBI agents, and they mock Mulder for not figuring out who Reggie is. Mulder doesn’t like being disrespected and yells his name a few times.

In the office, he puts together a board trying to figure out the conspiracy, throwing a bone to the Internet by connecting Ted Cruz’s father to JFK’s assassination. He’s not sure if Bob Dylan’s Grammy performance was really interrupted by a guy with “soy bomb” written on his chest, since there’s no video evidence. Everything Mulder comes up with just leads him back to parallel universes. He tells Scully he’s lost the plot. Scully thinks he’s just burned out on conspiracies, “especially after all this birther stuff.”

Mulder gets a call from They and meets up with him in a sculpture garden. They wants to shame Mulder for taking so long to find out about his conspiracy. He hasn’t even been hiding; he’s in the phone book. They made the video Reggie showed the agents, in an attempt to make “phone fake news.” It’s the idea of presenting the truth in a way that ensures no one will believe it. They wanted to meet with Mulder out of “professional courtesy” and tell him his time has passed.

Once upon a time, people in power thought they could keep their secrets secret. Now, nothing can be covered up. He figures kids will shorten the name for this time from “post-conspiracy” to “po-co.” Mulder doesn’t care, as long as the truth gets out. They says the public doesn’t know what the truth means anymore. He can change people’s collective memories, which means he can control the past, which also means he can control the future. He credits that to Orson Welles, but Mulder says George Orwell said that. “For now, maybe,” They says.

His point is that he can tell Mulder the whole truth, but it doesn’t matter because no one will believe it. They just believe what they want. He doesn’t even really need to control people’s minds; he just needs people to think it’s possible. From there, people are less trusting. They leaves Mulder behind with the sculptures, which are laughing and shrugging.

Reggie ambushes Mulder in the parking garage again, calling him “Foxy.” Scully joins them, announcing that she used Reggie’s yearbook to find his high school transcripts and get his real name, Reginald Murgatroid. He’s not in the yearbook because he was only at that school for a few weeks. He got his GED and enlisted in the Army, which took him to Grenada. He was hit in the head with a shovel, was discharged, and went to work for multiple government agencies, like the Post Office and the IRS. Part of his job at the DOJ was giving people new identities through Witness Protection.

After 9/11, Reggie joined the CIA and engaged in activities like waterboarding someone right in his cubicle. Then he got to use drone bombs with the DOD. While working for the NSA, he eavesdropped on people’s conversations, including Mulder and Scully’s. Then, about a year ago, Reggie had a nervous breakdown and was sent to a psych facility.

Mulder thinks he just felt tormented because he wanted to serve his country, but instead had to betray his ideals. He used information from illegal wiretaps and developed a fantasy where he worked with the agents. Reggie tries to argue that he’s from a parallel universe, but he can’t make it work. Sirens approach, coming from a station wagon sent from the psych facility, and Reggie says his ride is there. Men in gray suits politely put him in a straight jacket, and he wishes the agents good luck with the rest of their cases.

Mulder asks what happened during the agents’ last case together. Reggie says they found the truth that’s out there. In flashback, the agents go out somewhere to meet the alien that was supposed to come 35 years after the one found in Grenada. “Scully drove,” Reggie says. They find the remains of the Voyager, then spot a UFO nearby. An alien comes down to meet them (it takes a while; his moving walkway is slow, and then he has to get on a Segway).

The alien tells the agents that he’s a representative of an intergalactic union of sentient beings, made up of beings from all known universes. After years of studying Earth, the aliens no longer want any contact with humans. They’re building a wall. Anything sent beyond it will be destroyed. Humans are just not sending their best people – they’re bring drugs and rapists, though some may be good people. (Cough cough.) But the real dealbreaker is that humans lie.

So there are no hard feelings, the alien does have a gift for the agents: a book containing answers to all humans’ questions about…well, anything. Helpfully, it’s labeled “all the answers.” The alien wishes the agents “good luck and good riddance.” He gets back on his UFO, singing his own theme music. Mulder has finally gotten the answer to his big question: We’re not alone in the universe. However, the other beings out there don’t like us.

Scully says there will always be more X-Files, but since the book has answers to everything, there’s nothing left to investigate. He’s not happy about what the book says about Sasquatch. While Mulder has a tantrum on the ground, Reggie says this is the end of the X-Files. But maybe the point was finding each other, rather than the truth. No one can take away their memories, or alter them in a way that makes them think they never happened. Scully starts to possibly declare her love for Reggie, but he stops her and says he knows. The three have a group hug.

In the present, Reggie says they lived happily ever after, then is loaded into the ambulance to go to the psych hospital. He laughs off Mulder’s promise to come visit. As Reggie is carted off, Skinner comes into the parking garage, sees the ambulance leaving, and asks, “Where the hell are they taking Reggie?”

Back at Mulder’s house, Mulder has found “The Lost Martian,” which was actually an episode of a Twilight Zone knock-off called The Dusky Realm. The tape gets messed up, so Mulder is the last person who will ever see that episode. Scully has mixed up some Goop-O A-B-C, using the Bigfoot impression as a mold. She starts to take a bite, then puts down her spoon. “I want to remember how it was,” she says. “I want to remember how it all was.”

Thoughts: I adore Brian Huskey (Reggie). He’s Regular-Sized Rudy!

I love that, even in the flashbacks, where Mulder and Scully are super-young, Reggie always looks the same.

The sculpture garden is really in Canada, but I guess we’re not supposed to know that. Or maybe in this universe, it’s in D.C.

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