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The X-Files: Quagmire

Case: Mulder and Scully investigate reports of people mysteriously disappearing around a large lake.

Destination: Heuvelman’s Lake, Georgia

Re-watching this season of The X-Files as we have been doing these reviews, I realized that my first, second, even third time through the series I had missed something fundamental.

From the beginning, I was a shipper (a term, by the way, that was coined for this show and this couple). I longed for Mulder and Scully to come to their senses and realize that they were perfect for each other. I wanted the mad, romantic moment where they fall into each other’s arms and kiss as the music soars.

I was so intent on that one moment that many of the smaller ones, the more significant ones, passed me by. This episode, for example, shows us just how much these two already love each other and are already committed to each other. That love and that commitment is not the normal television romance, but once I started paying attention to it, it’s clearly there.

The beginning of this episode is a great example of this. Scully does not need to be along on this trip. It’s Saturday; she can’t find someone to watch her dog; Mulder has been incredibly vague about why they are in the wilds of Georgia. Yet, here she is. Frustrated, but she’s there. If that’s not a commitment, I’m not sure what is.

Throughout this episode, with its unusually high body count, Mulder and Scully play the roles we have come to expect. Mulder is seeking something weird and prehistoric; Scully keeps bringing him back down to earth. So far, so what.

But then, the two of them become stranded on the rock and have a conversation that raises this episode to the level of a classic. It is dark; they are wet and cold; they are frightened. Scully has had just about enough and questions Mulder about why they are where they are.

She compares him to Ahab, a not even remotely flattering comparison. Mulder leaps to the conclusion that Scully’s questioning his motives means that she is questioning him. As she is the only one whom he trusts, the only one he is even remotely open to, he is hurt.

I love Mulder’s speech about the peg leg. If part of him were missing, he would be able to live a more normal life. Instead, because he is whole in body, he is expected to make something of himself in the world. The truth is that his disability is his obsession with the truth. It is the thing that stops him from being whole in spirit. Scully understands this and she loves Mulder for it, as much as it frustrates her. Her smile at the end of his speech is tender.

The fact that this conversation takes place only steps from shore is a fantastic metaphor for the relationship these two have. As one watches both the mythology of this show and the relationship that builds between these two over the course of time, one feels as though Mulder and Scully are close to something big, be it The Truth or admitting to each other how much they care. Unfortunately, they can’t see how close they are and they continue to sit on the rock and wonder.

The most “romantic” moment is at the end of this episode. Scully listens and watches as Mulder is ridiculed by Faraday and thwarted by the sheriff, both of whom express opinions that she shares. Yet, it is she who ultimately supports Mulder, asking the sheriff to spare a few men to search the cove where Mulder is convinced Big Blue lives.

As they turn toward each other, Scully shrugs while Mulder very simply thanks her as he leans in towards her. And, once he kills the alligator, she asks him how he is while reaffirming the choices he makes. That, my friends, is true love.

Other Thoughts

Although Kim Newton is credited with writing this episode, Darin Morgan had a great deal of input into the details of the story. As he likes to do, he references his earlier episodes. Queequeg initially made his appearance in “Clyde Bruckman" and the two kids in the beginning also appeared in “War of the Coprophages.”

And, as always, there are a fair number of inside jokes:
— Millikan County is named after casting director Rick Millikan
— Patricia Rae, the boat that Mulder and Scully crash, is named after Kim Manners’ mother
— Heuvelman’s Lake is named for Bernard Heuvelmans, a noted sea-monster researcher
— Ansel is named for the photographer Ansel Adams.

Although seeing the monster at the end is fun, I think it's a misstep. This show is always better when we are left wondering, not knowing.


Mulder: “Sounds like you know a little something about [sea monsters].”
Scully: “I did as a kid, but then I grew up and became a scientist.”

Mulder: “Hey Scully, do you think you could ever cannibalize someone? I mean, if you really had to.”
Scully: “Well, as much as the very idea is abhorrent to me, I suppose under certain conditions, a living entity is practically conditioned to perform whatever extreme measures are necessary to ensure its survival. I suppose I’m no different.”
Mulder: “You’ve lost some weight recently, haven’t you?”
Scully: “Yeah, I have, actually. Thanks for…” Glares at him.

Scully: “[I’ve just realized] how much you’re like Ahab. You’re so consumed by your personal vengeance against life, whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to fit your megalomaniacal cosmology.”
Mulder: “Scully, are you coming on to me?”

Final Analysis: A standard MotW episode that raises the stakes by allowing Mulder and Scully’s relationship to take center stage for much of it.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


  1. Alas poor Queequag!

    I love Mulder and Scully's interactions in this episode. Although I think I wanted them to get together eventually, as long as they were acknowledged as the most important person in each other's lives I wasn't too bothered about whether they were actually doing the nasty, so I totally agree about how lovely all the little moments between them here are.

  2. Have to admit I was an anti-shipper at the time. I think we were called NoRomos or something. Since you never hear that phrase anymore you can guess how that horse finished.

    Mostly it wasn't so much that I didn't want them to get together. I was more afraid that the relationship would just devolve into a TV trope. I liked the undercurrent of romantic tension, as much a part of the show's background by then as the spooky B.C. locations.

    Bottom line though is it just HAD to happen eventually. I think Juliette's comment strikes a nice balance.

    Liked the almost "Humbug" level of humor in this one: the "stranded" five feet from shore scene, and the fact that in the end it was just a big ole gator. Yet another potato.

    Another funny quote: "We got a floater!"

  3. Chris:
    You wrote the hell out of this review! You nailed something so essential about the show, its audience and the MSR in which the R stood for relationship not romance for good reason. It's also very cool seeing the rewatch through your eyes because of how articulate you are. XO

  4. Easily became a favourite... and yeah that peg-leg convo was great

  5. I'm currently rewatching the entire series on Hulu, and the exact same thing is happening to me now: when I was watching this show a teenager, waiting desperately for a kiss or SOMETHING, I missed all the beautiful moments of their actual relationship that made this show what it was, and really were the reason why I loved it so much. Couldn't see the forest for the trees, I guess. But at least now, watching it from a more mature and much different perspective is giving me an opportunity to discover so many of these gems that were hidden in plain sight all along.

    I've also really been enjoying the episode reviews, nine years or so after they were originally published. Thank you to the contributors to this page for the wonderful work you've done, and thanks for leaving it up for people like me to enjoy. Cheers.


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