Case: Mulder is stuck in the body of Man in Black Morris Fletcher.
Destination: Area 51, Nevada.
"You know Morris, when most men have a mid-life crisis they go out and buy themselves a sports car. They don't run around calling themselves Fox!"
I love this two-parter (see Chris's excellent review of Part 1 here). I'm a sucker for bodyswap episodes, and this one is particularly effective, thanks to the way it contrasts Mulder and Morris's lifestyles and life choices. Mulder is really lost in a suburban family environment, managing to accelerate the collapse of Morris's marriage in a few days, and somehow, despite the fact that Morris is despicable in every way, his reunion with his wife after his miserably failed attempt to take advantage of Mulder's life and looks (and several attempts to cheat on her with Scully) is strangely touching. The fact that they have similar jobs on opposite sides of the conspiracy, Morris constantly working to conceal what Mulder is constantly working to uncover, sets it off perfectly.
Gillian Anderson is brilliant in this episode (well, she always is). Her expression when Morris says 'it's the new me', and she's starting to realise what's happened is perfect. The fact that Scully is clearly onto him also means I personally (and I know I'm in a minority here) enjoy this episode more than 'Small Potatoes'. Morris, like Eddie van Blundht, tries to get Scully to sleep with him while thinking he's someone else, which is clearly not consensual since she can't give consent when she doesn't know who he is, but luckily Morris is so spectacularly sleazy that Scully isn't fooled for a moment, and watching her turn the tables on him is thoroughly satisfying.
In fact, the performances in this episode are all great. I especially enjoyed the elderly Native American woman who was actually a fighter pilot - Julia Vera does a great impression of a Top Gun-type character. I really enjoy Michael McKean's skin-crawlingly sleazy Morris Fletcher as well, though since I first saw McKean playing the creepiest of creepy clowns on Star Trek: Voyager, I do always find him gloriously creepy!
A lot of the episode is pretty light, but there is horror here too. There's a certain gut-punching horror to Mulder's discovery that no one at Area 51 really has a clue what's going on with all the aliens and whatnot either, which is horrifying and hilarious at the same time. On a more prosaic level, the (brief) fate of the teenagers who were making out is pretty gruesome.
If I had to criticise this episode, I suppose I have to admit that even with my own high tolerance for the reset button, the ending is a teeny bit of a cop-out. Everything just magically re-sets to normal by itself. But it gives us the achingly poignant scene when Mulder and Scully think that Mulder will have to live out the rest of his life this way and they say goodbye for good. Plus I love the hint that Mulder and Morris both retain some sense of what happened, so their character development isn't completely undone (Morris looking anew at his wedding ring, Mulder expressing his appreciation for Scully and the things she does for him) and there are a few odd things haven't completely re-set - like Mulder's water-bed (watch out for a great call-back to that in a few episodes' time). Perhaps it feels a bit like the writers weren't quite sure how to resolve the situation they'd set up - but I can forgive them that when the ride is as much fun as this.
- Little Mulder dressed as Spock on old home movies is too adorable for words.
- We've seen Mulder sleeping on his sofa for years, and now we discover that his bedroom has been rendered literally unusable by mess. Mulder and I have a lot in common.
- Brilliant use of Quantum Leap's mirror trick when Mulder looks up and is surprised to see himself in the mirror, because Morris is standing behind him.
- The shipping news: The whole of the goodbye scene is ship-tastic, especially the 'I'd kiss you' line (see below). Plus there's Morris's wife's conviction that Mulder and Scully are having an affair.
- I'm sure it's been shown many times before, but Mulder's front door gets a front and centre shot at the end of this episode, and it will never stop amusing me that he lives in apartment 42 - the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. It's a particularly brilliant geeky in-joke.
Scully (to Morris): You call me 'baby' one more time you're gonna be peeing through a catheter.
Scully (to Mulder in Morris's body): I'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly.
Mulder (re Morris): If I shoot him, is that murder or suicide?
Scully: Neither, if I do it first.
Mulder: I guess you were right Scully, just another crackpot who watches too much Star Trek (like Mulder, who watched Star Trek as a child?)
Final Analysis: A bit lightweight in the end, perhaps, but loads of fun. Three and a half out of four water-beds.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.