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The X-Files: Improbable

“Do you believe the universe is knowable as a mathematical calculation of the whole, reducible to a single equation?”

Case: A serial killer preys on women, an enigmatic stranger looks on, and Reyes uses numerology to hunt the killer.

Destination: Washington, D.C.

This fantastic episode features two movie stars – Burt Reynolds and Ellen Greene, lively music, synchronized movements, lip-synching, amazing dialog, and cosmic themes. It’s made even better by the performance of Annabeth Gish (Reyes), who once again plays Monica as someone infinitely interesting. Scully’s lucky to have both her and Doggett, now that Mulder’s away. It’s too bad the audience of this series didn’t feel the same way. I’d watch a show just with Scully and Reyes. No offence to Doggett, but it’s the ladies that really make this one shine.

From the first time Burt Reynolds shows up onscreen, flashing his famous grin, I’m a happy fangirl. I grew up watching him at the movies and he’s in fine form. His character’s name is Burt/God, but I’ll just call him Burt, here. There are many different forms of a supreme deity in fiction that touches a story in some way and I usually find most of them pretty interesting, without worrying about equating them to my beliefs. I love cosmic ideas about meanings that one can deduce in our universe, especially ones that are presented in ways that I can easily understand. You know, like checkers and card games.

It’s really common to portray the travails of life through the image of a hand of cards. Here, in this episode, Burt makes most of his pronouncements in some form of game imagery. He seems to make the point that it's not the cards that win, but that man actually just beats himself. Life isn’t fair, just like that poor lady who gets murdered in the casino and then some random guy wins big on the machine that she has just vacated. Sometimes people are just dealt a rotten hand and they can't overcome that.

There are cool camera angles and split-screens that keeps this story moving at a brisk pace. Just like in “Triangle,” this episode seems to be set to its own beat and I love that. It’s neat to watch Reyes from above as everyone weaves and bobs around her, her co-workers involved in the synchronized dance of the scenes. I also love the interactions between Burt and Wayno, who isn’t amused to be told the secret to winning the game – choose better. I don’t think that Wayno wants to make different choices, at this point, he’s too far gone. Burt does look sad when the women are killed, but he doesn’t interfere in any way. Free Will isn’t always pretty.

It’s great to see Ellen Greene, who is a talented performer. She plays a numerologist that Reyes asks for help in her investigation. It’s too late, though, for that poor lady. She figures out some important information about the killer, just as he appears behind her. Reyes, however, is enjoying an ovation from her fellow agents for connecting random murders to the same man. Monica’s just glowing, as she proceeds to update her colleagues on her somewhat wacky findings. Doggett’s standing there with a worried expression on his face as the taskforce leader looks perplexed and a trifle annoyed. That isn’t what he’s expecting from his agent; he believes in different kind of patterns – the boring and unimaginative kind. Doggett is gently supportive of Reyes (aww), but he doesn’t have a big part to play in this story, until the end. It’s Scully who gets an important clue at the numerologist’s autopsy, as she sees sixes everywhere.

The killer’s right there in an elevator when Reyes and Scully are led by the clues to a certain building. It seems like he’s meant to be stopped by our FBI agents, doesn’t it? Scully sees his ring, which matches the patterns on the victims faces, and the chase is on. More fun music plays as our fearless ladies race down the stairs, but they get stuck in the building’s garage without cell service. That’s one secure building because there seems to be no way out without a code, or a cardkey. Lo and behold… who do they find in that locked garage? Yep, it’s Burt who doesn’t have a phone, I.D., or a watch, apparently. What he does have is a game of checkers and lots of music choices.

It’s a party, in that parking garage, as Scully and Reyes exchange witty repartee with Burt. Scully’s very suspicious of him, but with no way out – we are treated to a wonderful montage of our little group playing checkers. It’s so funny – Burt wins quickly as Scully and Reyes look stunned, then the agents play each other while Burt dances around them. I love Reyes’ reaction when Scully (without warning) suddenly shoots at the locked door and then when Reyes realizes that the colors on the checkerboard are signifying the color of the hair of the victims and the killer’s pattern. The revelation that they are next on the killer’s list is quite spooky and Reyes seems so awed by her own ability to see the patterns and make connections… I just get chills watching that scene. Yep, Reyes, you didn’t look hard enough – the killer’s still in the garage with you. It’s interesting to note that Burt sees Monica being pulled away by the killer, but does nothing to intervene. It’s Doggett who sees a pattern in the killer’s movements that clues him into where he has to go to stop him.

The next scene is probably my favorite in this whole thing. It just makes me grin to see a dozen agents tilt sideways in unison to see that the nine on the murder-board is really a six. Of course, there’s peppy music playing, again. Marvelous.

When Scully can’t sleep, she calls Reyes and that’s a cute exchange. It’s nice that Scully finally has a female friend. Sigh. The ending, though, I mostly enjoy, even as its cheesiness oozes everywhere. Lots of extras lip-synch and dance because we’re suddenly in Little Italy, don’t you know. Can something be cringe-worthy and kind of fun, at the same time?

Other Thoughts

Chris Carter wrote and directed this episode. There really aren’t many episodes that Carter wrote that are on my favorites lists. This one has a similar feel to "Syzygy" that I liked and he also wrote “The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas.” Most of his other scripts are not to my taste: too bloated and ponderous.

My favorite Burt Reynolds movie is 1982’s Best Friends with Goldie Hawn. I love that movie. "I dee un dough." Ha! (There’s a minister who doesn’t speak English very well and just makes them repeat this to each other, which they do with much adorable giggling – instead of  "I thee endow.") Hilarious, I tell ya.

Ellen Greene is known for Little Shop of Horrors and Pushing Daisies.  I've read that Little Shop is being re-released with the original dark and bloody ending that didn't test well with audiences.  No thanks, I love the happy ending for Seymour and Audrey.

The ending dance sequence reminds me of the zombies' dance at the end of Hollywood A.D. That one also contained extra cheese, but was written by David Duchovny, remember him?

Quotes (Some are condensed)

Reyes: “Well, the killer probably has a soul number of either four or six. His Birth Path is, I’m guessing, a nine or maybe a six. The Destiny and Realization numbers are definitely karmic, I’ll know for sure once I’ve got the charts from the numerologist, but the killer is almost certainly working off numerical vibrational disharmonies.” (Cue bewildered looks from spectators.)

Reyes: “That’s actually why I came to see this woman – to see why he does what he does when he does it.”
Taskforce Guy: “The FBI doesn’t go to numerologists for the same reason we don’t consult horoscopes, or palm readers, or crystal balls. Killers kill for a reason.”
Reyes: “If he acts on impulses he can’t understand, isn’t it possible we can’t understand them, either? Can we not accept that every killer is not driven by the same impulses and that there are some impulses that not every killer kills for?”
Taskforce Guy: “No.”

Burt: “The checkers are in the trunk if either of you play.”
Scully: “Sir, does it look like we’re here to play checkers?”
Burt: “No.”

Scully: “Who are you?”
Burt: “Obviously someone you are very lucky to have run into.”
Scully: “No, no – you’re part of this.”
Burt: “How do you figure that?”
Reyes: “No, it’s all in the numbers. It makes perfect sense. The numbers led us to the killer, the killer led us to the garage, and now all we’ve done is recognize the killer’s real serial pattern.”
Burt: “So you’re saying I didn’t have anything to do with it?”
Scully: “Hey, keep your hands up!”
Burt: “Why?”
Scully: “I don’t know.”

Scully: “Agent Reyes, that is utter nonsense, okay? It would mean that all we are, are checkers on a checkerboard being moved around by some forces completely outside and unbeknownst to us.”
Reyes: “What did Einstein say: God does not play dice with the universe."
Scully: “Nor does he play checkers.”

Scully: “There’s something else that’s bugging me.”
Reyes: “What’s that?”
Scully: “Who was that man?”
Reyes: “God knows.”

Sorry about the length of this review (and the quote section), but this episode has so many fun and interesting parts to it. I love the dialog and it must have been very challenging for the actors to memorize and say all those complicated speeches while also acting their hearts out.

Five out of five checkers.

Mallena loves great dialogue and masterful performances.


  1. Fun review of a fun episode, Mallena.

    And there's only six episodes to go!

  2. Just watched this episode for the first time, and wanted to find a like minded viewer :-) Loved the quirkiness of the ep, and your review was as delightful!

  3. Watched for the first time? Wow. I've probably seen this one at least a dozen times or more. I watched live, in the olden days, and this series was my favorite show. Thanks so much for your comment, you've made my day!


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