Sunday, August 7, 2016

X-Files: Drive 'Shipper Survey

One of the things about the X-Files being a show of the 1990s is how time marches on. This blog started in 2015, more than 20 years after, and so there's a lot of hindsight involved in getting the original 'Shipper surveys reposted. For starters, looking back and recognizing big-name actors before they ever started winning Emmys and Oscars.

This is one of those classic episodes. This is, in fact, the episode Vince Gilligan remembered when it came time to cast someone for the iconic role of Walter White for his own television epic Breaking Bad. As I need to edit this Survey to update for modern times, I may well insert a few Bryan Cranston memes into the half-baked jokes here. Now, to wit:

X-Files Senseless 'Shipper Survey - Drive

1) The episode begins (for the writer at least) with a commercial promoting an upcoming installment of the Donny and Marie Show. Then the scene cuts to a LIVE on-air transmission from FOX Channel 11 out in Nevada, where a high-speed chase is keeping the highway patrol on their toes. They stop the car, but when the try to arrest the driver (Bryan Cranston!) and rescue the woman passenger, the poor woman keeps banging her head against the glass until her head, well, explodes. When the opening credits take over, your primary thought is this:

A) High-speed chases with exploding people, you can deal with. But the Donny and Marie Show?!?!? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo <dies>

B) What's Walter White doing driving outside of New Mexico like this? Anyway, HE is the one who HONKS!

C) This is in Nevada? Hey, doesn't that state have a lenient marriage license policy? After all, you can get an Elvis Impersonator to preside over your wedding, right?...;-)

2) After an Intel commercial where Homer Simpson gets implanted with a chip in the back of his head, the show continues with Mulder and Scully out in Idaho, doing routine work on checking a farmer's recent purchase of fertilizer (as Mulder puts it, "So routine it numbs the mind."). As they look for the paperwork, Mulder spots the news report showing the bizarre death in Nevada. While the agents watch the replay, you realize:

A) That if Homer takes that Intel chip out of his head, he'll get cancer! D'oh!

B) That it was either checking fertilizer bags in Idaho or checking for meth labs in Albuquerque!

C) There's a good chance, because the FBI will be reining in their "dubious" travel expenses, that Dana and Fox will have to share one hotel room on this trip! Yes!

3) Scully finds Mulder near the car just as he's finishing up a phone call. She already knows that Mulder wants to detour to Nevada to investigate that death, but points out that they're being watched closely on this one and any deviation from their routine will get them in trouble. He argues that this routine of hunting down big piles of doo-doo is going nowhere, and besides, they can go to Nevada, be in and out in a day, and "nobody has to know." When he says that, you know:

A) Scully should have learned after five seasons of this sh-t that "nobody has to know" means the bosses will be chewing them out for property damage and body counts again!

B) That every Fox Channel west of the Mississippi is going to catch them on tape and play it over and over again for a new hit show, "When FBI Agents Attack!"

C) That Fox's real excuse is to get Dana close enough to Las Vegas so they can get a quicky wedding presided by an Elvis Impersonator, oh yeah!...<sigh>

4) Our intrepid heroes make it to Nevada, where the driver Crump is under lock and key for carjacking. Scully volunteers to go check the autopsy on Crump's wife, while Mulder agrees to stay and talk with poor guy, whom the audience noticed earlier is starting to nosebleed and scream in terror. When this happens, you:

A) Notice that it's Scully initiating the ditch this time, beating the Punk to the punch

B) Know they won't see each other for another 38 minutes and 40 seconds

C) Realize they're both politely ditching one another, courtesy of 'Shipperdom's favorite writer Vince Gilligan (so don't forget his new movie - for 1998 - Home Fries starring Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson, the Sheriff Bucktooth from "Bad Blood"!)

5) Scully goes to follow up on the autopsy with the local pathologist, who notes how the poor woman died: one side of the head blown away as an exit wound, but no sign of an entry wound, like something was already inside her. Scully notices something unusual in what's left of Mrs. Crump's inner ear. As she starts poking at it, you scream:

A) "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

B) "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

C) "Uououououououououo!" <there are some type of screams that involve the letter 'I', but we'll save that for later>

6) While Scully learns too late not to pick at things like that, Mulder follows after Crump, now suffering from a seizure of some sort and getting placed in an ambulance. Scully goes into In-Charge! Mode setting up a quarantine in the morgue, getting word that another body had been found and assuming whatever killed Mrs. Crump is communicable. She calls Mulder, warning him of the quarantine and warning him to isolate Crump ASAP. She specifically warns Mulder not to see the guy. As she says that, you realize:

A) That the Blessed Skeptic should have learned by now that Mulder is always in it up to his ears by the time she tries to warn him...

B) That every warning about Bryan Cranston characters never get heeded UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE...

C) That it was sweet of Dana to call and warn Fox, but next time, hon, try it before he's taken hostage, okay?

7) Guys, you gotta be quick with the pause button: Scully flashes her phone number on the screen. You're pretty sure it's:

A) (202) SNT-DANA

B) (900) FBI-SEXY

C) (202) MAR-RYME ext. FOX

8) Well, actually, her number's (202) 555-0166, but meanwhile she's learned Mulder has been taken hostage and forced to drive Crump westward. She plans with the local law enforcement to set up a roadblock with people from CDC to quarantine the two, but Crump calls in demanding the chasing police cars pull back. The cars do pull off pursuit, but when someone dials Mulder's cell phone, Crump angrily tosses it out the window. As Mulder freaks out, you realize:

A) That it had to be Scully calling, and even the Punk knew this time he needs her to save his Speedo-wearing butt!

B) That it's not really Crump. It's Heisenberg, and everyone's got to play the game his way now!

C) That Fox really needs to hear Dana's voice from time to time, aw, isn't that romantic? <sigh>

9) When Mulder slows down the car, Crump freaks out and gets sicker. Mulder's intuitive skills kick in and he hits the accelerator, watching as Crump's condition improves. He realizes that this is what happened to Crump's wife, if you slow down you die. "I think I saw this movie," mutters Mulder, and you guess the movie he saw was:

A) Playing, that's if you star in a cruddy movie, your career dies...

B) It wasn't a movie! It was an acclaimed five season Emmy-winning series on AMC!

C) Godzilla 2015! Well, it could work as a date movie for Dana and Fox!

10) Scully finds out that they've avoided the roadblock, hinting that Mulder has learned of something. She gets a call, and hey, it's from her new boss AD Kersh, who asks how it's going in Idaho, with the addendum "Think carefully." Realizing that the "nobody will know" promise from Mulder is now out the window (along with the cell phones), she admits that they had gone to Nevada because of this case they felt needed investigating. Kersh calmly promises to await the report and offers the nearest field office for support, but he makes it clear Mulder is going to get chewed up and spat out for this one. As Scully ends the phone call with one of her patented "oopsies" look, you:

A) Notice, after she makes an intuitive guess that the victims are connected by location, that it's always after getting chewed out by her bosses that Scully does her best thinking.

B) Realize Kersh must be watching the show, because he learned Scully's phone number the same time the rest of us guys did (expect that phone to ring non-stop for the rest of the episode!)

C) Know full well that Dana REALLY wants to see Fox alive more than Kersh does! <protective grumbling>

11) Meanwhile, Mulder and Crump are happily exchanging recipes for bundt cakes... Crump, who's not exactly enjoying this day, insists when Mulder calls him Crump he put "Mister" in front of it. He then snarls if Mulder's a Jewish name. Mulder growls back "That's Mister Mulder, you peanut-picking bastard." As the audience learns this is going to be one of those fun family drives, you:

A) Know that if Scully was driving, she'd growl, "That's Miss Scully, you <many and varied expletives deleted>" because as Sister Autumn points out so often, Our Little Sailor's background as a Navy brat has exposed her to the best selection of four-letter, eight-letter, and twelve-letter vulgarities on the seven seas!

B) Realize Bryan Cranston is going to put that gun to Mulder's head and growl. "Say... My... Name..."

C) Wonder if Dana's going to ask Fox about that bottle-smashing bit in Jewish weddings...better yet, if he can demonstrate it <deep sigh>

12) After an exciting commercial for Puppy Chow, the show resumes at night at the Crump residence. Bathed in a fog-filled moonlit light, Scully leads a team of Disease Control staffers into a potential hot zone. They find a dog, agitated and constantly barking as it runs back and forth on its leash. As the team tries to subdue the dog to see if there's any infestation, you:

A) Would think someone from a dog family like Scully would just let the poor thing be...

B) Know that dog ain't working himself up for some Puppy Chow! :(

C) Scream "NOOO! Not the poor puppy! Don't! No, don't...." <ick> "Oh, not the poor doggie..." :( :( :( :( :( :(

13) After the poor puppy incident, Scully and the team leader for CDC discuss what diseases can affect both dogs and humans. She spots a light in the distance and notes the Crumps might have neighbors. She enters the far trailer, using her extra-powerful Super-Flashlight (for you Brits, the Super-Torch) to examine the clutter and carnage. She spots some dead tweety-birds, proving whatever kills here doesn't discriminate, and moves toward a still human figure in a chair. As Scully gets closer and closer, you:

A) Notice the lady is watching this weird sitcom about teenage boys driving their crazy parents even crazier, including a bumbling dad who moonlights as a meth cook.

B) Thank God the FBI finally re-issued those big flashlights to our intrepid heroes...I mean, those dinky little lights couldn't generate an INCH of fog-cutting beam, and these are so much more cooler!

C) Go ahead and scream that "IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" scream when the old lady jumps up.

14) Scully ponders what could kill almost everything within a mile radius yet leave a deaf woman intact. Realizing it's not a virus they're fighting but something to do with the aural tracks of the ear, Scully takes off her helmet and listens for a sound. When a beeping noise suddenly chirps up, you realize:

A) That, damn, this girl is GOOD...

B) It's a bell, someone keeps ringing a bell, this old guy sitting in a wheelchair with a bomb strapped to th... OMG DUCK (explosion).

C) It sounds like the wake-up beeper Dana and Fox have back at the hotel room they're sharing!

15) Mister Mulder and Mister Crump take a few minutes to talk. Crump rants against the government conspiracy he's certain has used him and his wife like guinea pigs. He points out it's no way to treat a man, to take away his dignity like that, that it would be better just to kill him, that's all he's saying. Mulder points out that they'll find a way out of this. Crump nods but notes they have to hurry, "There's not much West left." As they pass a Welcome sign for California, you realize:

A) That this sign is yet another dig from the producers about moving the show to L.A. You Vancouver-hating ain't right to take the dignity of a Canadian town like that, man...

B) This is the acting bit Bryan used for his Walter White audition, wasn't it!

C) That Crump is hinting at the treatment Fox is getting from his FBI superiors, a metaphor of how men struggle against the injustice of a cruel and chaotic universe... But Fox may have this consolation to carry with him in the darkness, that the bond between him and Dana, the bond of Lo...well, the bond of Trust, will yet save him!

16) Scully goes to a nearby Navy base, home of the Seafarer communications system, to find out about that humming box in the Crumps' backyard. The Navy lieutenant who comes to speak with her assumes she's from the FCC and apologizes for the power surge that disrupted TV signals. As Scully bluffs her way into finding out more, you note:

A) That Scully's got to work on her hemming and hawing when she bluffs, otherwise the Punk is going to beat her at seven-card-stud every time they play poker

B) What is it with these military guys? First it's that private who didn't know his phone from his butt in the "Fight the Future" movie, now it's this Navy idjit who can't spell between FCC and FBI!

C) Dana and Fox are both really bad at bluffing because they keep throwing their games when they play strip poker <wicked and hopeful grin>

17) Mister Mulder wakes up Mister Crump, warning him that the California Highway Patrol is pulling up on them. You respond:

A) With a "Hey! Dad! 'CHiPS' is back on the air! Ponch and Jon, rolling on!"

B) With a "Hey! Is that a Hello Kitty phone from Saul Goodman's office?"

C) With a "Hey! Dana and Fox are finally going to talk with each other! Finally! Let's hope they say the 'Trust' word about five times!" <sigh>

18) With a replacement phone in Mulder's possession, Scully tells Mulder her theory: the power surge through the Navy's Seafarer project, used to communicate with subs, somehow created ELFs, low-level radio frequencies which have been known to cause biological changes. It's possible those frequencies altered the Crumps' bodies to create their own frequencies, causing pressure to build in the inner ear to the point that it explodes. As Mulder winces while Scully describes how she might be able to save Mister Crump, you respond to the screen:

A) "Uh, Mister Crump, when you suggested that someone was sticking it to you, you didn't really want it to be in your ear, did you?"

B) "Oh great. Throw all this on top of Walt's medical bills why don't you? HE'S JUST GONNA COOK MORE METH THAN EVER..."

C) "Wow, this must be serious...Dana and Fox didn't flirt at all during the phone conversation..."

19) They make it to the end of the West. The camera rises over the hill as the car passes, the Pacific Ocean in view. Scully has her needle ready, waiting for the car to pull up. As it does so, you realize:

A) That Mulder didn't stop the car in front of her but right at the ocean's edge, meaning Mister Crump didn't make it...and that the Punk is going to get all angsty on us again...:(

B) That they could have filmed the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver...but Nooooo, they had to actually do it in California this time! <mutter> <grumble>

C) That Fox is going to need some serious hand-holding...once he's done taking care of that business he mentioned to Dana a little earlier...

20) Mulder and Scully have returned to D.C. AD Kersh is reviewing their expenses. Mulder curtly interrupts, knowing how little a deal this really is. "Are we done here?" Mulder continues, wondering aloud if they have to go back to grunt work hunting down big piles of manure. "You can always quit," notes Kersh, nailing home the point of the episode. Mulder silently walks out. Scully tries to defend Mulder noting he's been through a lot, but Kersh points out she apologizes for him a lot. Scully believes that what they did shut down a dangerous military operation and may have saved lives. Kersh doesn't see it that way. He reminds Scully that they're not on the X-Files anymore, and the sooner she and Mulder know that, the better. As Scully turns and walks out with a "Big piles of manure" under her breath, you conclude with the thought:

A) That the Blessed One does seem to apologize for the Punk a bit too much, but hey, that's the forgiving nature of the Saint, ya?

B) That if they're not on the X-Files anymore, why call the show by that title? Why not change it to "Breaking Malcom In the Middle" or something? WHADDA YA MEAN THAT WILL BE TAKEN?

C) That Kersh didn't mention the extra cost of two hotel did that mean they shared one for once? YES!

If you more often than not answered:

A) Then you are an OBSSEr who thinks Scully should have gotten on a helicopter, flown it over the speeding car, jump down in an exciting stunt sequence, smash her way in through the roof, and then slam that needle into Crump's ear, saving his life and keeping the Punk from getting all angsty at the end

B) Then you are an X-Phile who wonders if all this could have been avoided if the United States just went with a universal healthcare program that could have treated Walter's cancer... I mean Crump's earache...

C) Then you are a 'Shipper who watched this episode worried that Dana and Fox didn't take an extra minute after the talkdown by Kersh to hold hands... Ever! WILL THEY EVER HOLD HANDS, CHRIS CARTER YOU SADISTIC... (gets told about Season Seven) Okay. Fine. We'll hold out for ONE MORE YEAR...

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