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The X-Files: Kitten

Case: Skinner’s past comes back to haunt him.

Destination: Near Khe Sanh, Vietnam (1969)
Somewhere in the woods (present day)

"Ain't no kitten out there!"

Walter Sergei Skinner has been a devoted supporter of Mulder and Scully, for many years. It’s too bad that the agents themselves seem to have forgotten that. Yes, Skinner has been seen with Old Smokey, but who hasn’t? Skinner could have any number of motives for hanging out with the guy. I’m assuming that Skinner’s doing the best that he can to help out his friends. Whenever Mulder gets all hostile toward his old boss, it just gives me a jolt because it doesn’t feel right to me.

This episode has glimpses into the young life of Walter Skinner and his friend John “Kitten” James. They are thrown together into the misery of the Vietnam War. Skinner had joined the Marines, but his war buddy had been drafted and was not taking the experience as well as Skinner. Of course, this being The X-Files, Skinner has to get a mysterious crate – labeled MK Naomi – to its destination. Unfortunately, when their helicopter's under fire, the crate manages to get placed in a building with just John James to protect it. Skinner, being the big hero that he is, tries to save another team member and leaves the truck to be shot at. Mustard-y yellow gas gushes forth and soon badness is aloft.

I’m intrigued to see Haley Joel Osment again. He was very good in The Sixth Sense and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. He plays not only John James, but also his son Davey. By the time that Mulder and Scully get involved, the episode finds some familiar grounds to play in. This new season’s shot in Vancouver, as was the first six great seasons of this show. All the gloomy trees and talks about “the monster in the woods” lend this story a nostalgic glow for me. One of my favorite episodes also involved monsters and large holes in the ground for characters to fall into. 1997’s “Detour” was a fun and scary romp through the misty woods and while this episode falls far short of that episode’s glory, it does provide some new enjoyments.

I like John and Davey’s backstory and the creepy house amongst the trees. Poor John was never the same after his exposure to that gas in Vietnam and neither was Skinner. He tried to play the good soldier, but soon found himself distrusting those that he had to follow and obey. He felt guilty for not doing anything to help his buddy after that terrible war. Davey isn’t playing with a full deck, so he soon makes poor Skinner suffer.

The part of the story that I enjoy are the scenes with Davey and Skinner and then with Mulder and Scully. There’s some real scares and wince-inducing moments involving Davey’s treatment of Skinner. Not to mention what he did to Dear Old Dad. Yikes. When Davey’s sitting in his house with Mulder and Scully talking about how he thinks cats are creepy, while having a picture of a creepy cat on his wall… that’s fantastic. I don’t remember finding out why John James had “Kitten” for his nickname and if anyone knows why cats are important to this episode, maybe you could kindly enlighten me.

It’s nice to see our old friend Walter Skinner get some screen time of his own. I remember the episode where Amanda Tapping played a woman who mysteriously dies after she and Skinner have a one-night stand. I think that’s the only episode that delved into Skinner very much. I do remember lots of times that Skinner rescued Mulder and/or Scully, and he was always the one to come through for them. I remember closeness between the three, so this distrust that has come between our favorite FBI agents – it doesn’t make much sense to me.

In the end there’s a battle for survival, Scully for the win, and wound tending. Skinner gets all mushy as he explains to Mulder and Scully that he’s content – right where he is. You go, Skinner. Mulder looks appropriately abashed at Skinner’s speech and Scully’s near tears. There’s an epilogue at the end that shows Skinner pulling out a bloody tooth (what?) and a voice-over from Davey or Kitten, that I’ll quote below.

Other Thoughts

Deputy Director Kersh makes an appearance as he snidely tells Skinner that he himself let Mulder and Scully derail his career. Boo, Kersh – you’re not a nice person.

I like the way that Scully turns around as she realizes that she can’t leave Mulder all alone to deal with Davey. She adroitly misses the trip wire and hoists Davey on his own petard, so to speak.

Skinner says he was just a kid and had an uncorrupted belief that he was doing the right thing during the war. I’m not sure that the Vietnam scenes were entirely effective, but Kitten James and his string of ears – now that was weirdly compelling. Osment did a good job with his dual roles.


Skinner: “Then you two – you two came along and you taught me not to hide from it, but to have the guts to shine a light directly into the darkest corners. And if given the choice between advancing my career by being blindly loyal to some faceless puppeteers pulling strings from the shadows or to throw in with you two? Make no mistake about it – I’d make the same decision every single damn time. So, let me go back and I’ll kiss the ring, but I intend to do right by this man. That means finding the truth no matter the cost. What they used him for; I owe him that, I owe myself that.” Aw shucks, now I’ve got something in my eye.

Voice of Kitten/Davey: “Imagine the power of a government that can literally control the minds of millions and millions of its citizens simply by exposing them to this poison. It’s happening…it’s happening right now!”

I’m not super impressed with this installment of the series, but it did have its moments. Osment’s spooky portrayal of his characters elevated the government conspiracy/secret project angle and we also got to see Skinner get himself un-speared by a spike. Ouch.

Three out of five cute boy robots.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if they are going to follow up with the teeth, but I guess it's just an ominous ending that is there to make us uneasy about the real world.


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