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The X-Files: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

Case: Mulder and (a reluctant) Scully investigate a house with a reputation for ghosts.

Destination: 'Somewhere in Maryland'

"Maybe I did want to be out there with you."

Aw, Mulder just wants to play [haunted]house and/or make a secret lover's pact. You decide. Scully doesn't know what she wants because she's conflicted about her 'abnormal life's choices', as per usual these days. Both struggle to accept they are connected beyond their work in yet another sixth season crisp and quirky episode.

What started out as a way to save some money and give the crew a break ends up being a most memorable episode for the series and the two characters it revolves around, both emotionally and thematically. Frame Mulder and Scully with Lily Tomlin's Lyda and Ed Asner's Maurice and a gorgeous gothic mansion and give everyone the patented Chris Carter dialogue and you have a compelling, succinct, funny and touching episode about relationships, loyalty, patterns and perception.

So far in the rearview are the episodes when Scully earnestly sat in the passenger seat of Mulder's car during one of his 'stakeouts', still thinking that (only) her science and rational nature was what he wanted next to him. I think that's what made her missing car keys such a good gag (and one where it was never quite solved if Mulder took them or if Maurice and Lyda did). He needs her there. No matter what.

Also long-gone are the episodes where Scully must ask Mulder in so many words, "What are you going to do?" All because she is being instructed to go do something more science-y by herself with whatever hard-ish evidence they have, while he seeks out something more intuitive. Mulder basically pleads with her (okay, in his own way, but still!) to hang out with him in the spooky house while they ponder the finer points of various existential crises. She needs to be there, and they both know it.

Of course, especially on The X-Files, an existential crisis is often a faux-fearful distraction from a real fear-filled connection with another person. But Mulder and Scully (and honestly, mostly Scully because she comes over to Mulder's in the middle of the night!) transcend their usual tomfoolery to have a tender moment exchanging presents on his couch which by all accounts, shot from outside his window amidst a gentle snow, looks like two regular people, doing a very regular thing. How do you define normal?

Other Thoughts

If lately the 'normal' thing has been Scully's crisis, by 'How The Ghosts Stole Christmas', she's come around to what's in front of her. Years later, many fans feel that Mulder is already emotionally tied to Scully by this point in the series, and is relaxed and comfortable with the idea. It's her that is, er, reluctant.

I really grappled with my feelings for this one when it first aired. It wasn't 'anything' enough to satisfy my 20 year-old self. Now, I adore it and see something new and charming every time I watch it. It's the gift that keeps on giving. (Sorry, I kind of had to!)

The ghosts' psychologizing works better on Mulder because, of course it does.

Many guesses were taken at the time of broadcast on alt.tv.xfiles at what presents Mulder and Scully got each other. One thing is pretty certain, she gave him a VHS tape. Ha if it's for his porn collection!

What cachet to land these two lovelies!


Mulder: "Christmas, 1917. It was a time of dark, dark despair. American soldiers were dying at an ungodly rate in a war-torn Europe, while at home, a deadly strain of the flu virus attacked young and old alike. Tragedy was a visitor on every doorstep while a creeping hopelessness set in with every man, woman and child. It was a time of dark, dark despair."
Scully: "You said that."

Ed: "My specialty is in what I call soul prospectors – a crossaxial classification I've codified by extensive interaction with visitors like yourself. I've found you all tend to fall into pretty much the same category."
Mulder: "And what category is that?"
Ed: "Narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac."
Mulder: "That's a category?"

Lily: "Oh, you poor child. You must have an awful small life. Spending your Christmas Eve with him, running around chasing things you don't even believe in."
Scully: "Don't come any closer."
Lily: "I can see it in your face. The fear, the conflicted yearnings, a subconscious desire to find fulfillment through another. Intimacy through co-dependency."
Scully: "What?"
Lily: "Maybe you repress the truth about why you're really here pretending it's out of duty or loyalty, unable to admit your dirty little secret. Your only joy in life is proving him wrong."

Mulder: "What happened to the star-crossed lovers?"
Lily: "Oh, let me tell you, the romance is the first thing to go."
Mulder: "It's you. You're Lyda, and that was Maurice. But you've... aged."
Lily: "I hope your partner finds you a lot more charming than I do."

Lily: "Maybe you two should have discussed your real feelings before you came out here. I'm speaking from experience."
Mulder: "What experience?"
Lily: "I'm not gonna get into semantics. A murder-suicide is all about trust."
Mulder: "I thought you had a lovers' pact."
Lily: "Haha. Poetic illusions aside, the outcome, Mulder, is pretty much the same."

Mulder: "Oh!"
Lily: "I don't show my hole to just anyone."
Mulder: "Why are you showing it to me?"

Mulder: "We're not lovers."
Lily: "And this isn't a pure science. But you're both so attractive and there'll be a lot of time to work that out. Go ahead, take it. Take it. Think of it as the last Christmas you'll ever spend alone."

Final Analysis: It doesn't get any snappier than this, especially for a bottle episode. And did I mention the guest stars?


  1. It's been a while since I watched the sixth season and I had forgotten how much I love these episodes. This one is one of the best. The guest stars, the script, the location, everything comes together to create a story that is damn nearly perfect.

    [M]any fans feel that Mulder is already emotionally tied to Scully by this point in the series, and is relaxed and comfortable with the idea. It's her that is, er, reluctant. Beautifully said. I think this is one of the reasons I love this season so much. Mulder has realized, come to terms with, and expressed how he feels. Scully is still struggling. It is the struggle that makes these episodes so compelling.

    One of my favorite moments of the entire series is Scully's face when Mulder hands her the present he got her. Her joy is childlike and always makes me smile.

    As always, great review, Heather!

  2. I loved this episode the first time it was shown. Have seen it many times since. Some shippers like me think that Mulder loved Scully practically from the first time they met. This show and Supernatural have the best Christmas episodes.

  3. Chris:
    It's really fun doing this rewatch with you for many many reasons. XO

    I think I fall in the same category of shipper as you. Watching this show again while reviewing it, I'm coming to understand the dance better between them because, and imo, it really is quite lovely!. I haven't watched Supernatural but I know on this site you're in very good company. :)

  4. I love this episode, it's such a great combination of shippy goodness, humour and a traditional gothic Christmas ghost story. Even if the ghosts' powers, motivations and appearance all make no sense whatsoever.


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