Thursday, August 13, 2015

#TheXFilesRewatch 1x08 “Ice” (We’re Not Who We Are) [Contributor: Lizzie]

Original Airdate: November 5, 1993

We’ve finally skipped ahead. Aren’t you thrilled? Well, you’ll be even happier next week, then. For now, though, let’s focus on this wonderful episode that has no overreaching impact on the mythology of the show, but still manages to be one of the most important season one episodes when it comes to furthering the partnership of our two leads.

We open in what looks to be a very, very cold place. The block letters insist it is Icy Cape, Alaska, but since all we can see is snow, that doesn’t really matter. What matters, however, is this realization: Cold and creepy places are twice as bad as warm and creepy places. If it’s warm at least you can, I don’t know… try to run away? Chances are you’ll still get caught and killed, but the illusion of maybe, perhaps getting a chance to escape is what’s important here.

So, we’re in some sort of research facility in a very, very cold place, and strange things are happening. (When are they not?) People are coming out of nowhere. There's a shirtless guy running around (I’ll just assume that it’s really hot inside to compensate or something) and he tries to send a message to -- what I suppose -- is some sort of base. But if I were the person hearing this message, I wouldn’t pick up either, because "we’re not who we are" is hardly a comforting message that begs rescue.

Predictably, no one answers. And did I mention there are dead bodies all around? Well, there are dead bodies all around. And a not-so-dead dog. This actually looks like the final scene of a dystopian movie, not the opening of a television show. I mean, it looks like that until the other guy appears, and then it just sort of turns into The Walking Dead.

At least until the guys decide that, instead of turning their guns (WHO BRINGS A GUN TO ICY CAPE, ALASKA?) on each other, they’re going to, you know, kill themselves.

Cue the credits.

(On an unrelated note, is this the ONLY show ever in the history of TV to keep the same credits with the same TWO actors for like seven seasons? I can’t think of another)

We join our favorite crime-fighting duo in the next scene, as Mulder explains what happened at the scene to Scully. I have no idea where they are, because there’s so much light that I’m going blind. Where’s the basement? This place lacks the appropriate level of creepiness. Mulder, of course, has more than the explanation of what they’re doing (studying the structure of the Earth’s climate back to the dawn of man sounds really cool) -- he has the tape of the message from Dead Guy #1, and Scully is quick to point out that the communication is spookier from their side. Well, she doesn’t say it like that, but we’ve seen both sides, so we know.

What we don’t know is why Mulder and Scully would get assigned this case in the first place. I mean, it’s weird, yes, but it’s not THAT weird (yet). Unless the Powers-That-Be controlling the FBI knew something they didn’t. At some point, Mulder and Scully are going to HAVE to catch on to the whole "if we’re getting assigned this, it really means something bigger is going on" thing.

But that’s a realization for another time. For now, we’re going to Icy Cape, Alaska! With a bunch of other scientists, because the investigation means little -- the only thing that matters is what’s up there! (What’s with the head shake? You should all know better by now.) The first of the scientists that Mulder and Scully run into when they make it to the airfield, a geologist, is actually listening to a tape of his favorite NFL plays, and you might think that’s weird, but I think it’s genius. I need one exactly like that to tune out people when I’m writing. That’s the quirky guy. The other two scientists are your typical tropes: the smart and clearly mistrusting guy who’s obviously the foil; and the blonde, pretty lady scientist that looks sort of like Scully would have looked if FOX had gotten the casting they wanted. Smart Scientist asks for ID within the first ten seconds of conversation, and really, as I said, he is obviously smart. And in real life, asking for ID is an intelligent move, but this a TV show, so the writers know that and are clearly going somewhere with this.

(Worth noting is that we get one of the cutest scenes ever after everyone pulls out an ID. Mulder says, “This is me” while waving his badge around, then turns to Scully, looks at her badge over her shoulder and says: “And that’s you.” This has been Shipping Mulder and Scully 101: "A Lesson in How to Find Significance in Even the Smallest of Things.")

After their pilot arrives, the next scene is the requisite plane shot, and am I the only one who had definite flashbacks to the movie Alive while watching the plane fly through those mountains? Yes? Hmmm… maybe I’m have issues, then. They land safely, thankfully, only to find the generator is not working and oh, yeah, everyone is dead. Though no one looks particularly shocked about that, they do have an absolutely idiotic conversation about what to do, in which Smart Scientist proves to be not so smart when he suggests they remove the bodies without even documenting the crime scene. Look, completely irrelevant character, even I you have to document everything first, and I know that only because I watch too many procedurals.

Scully continues this strange conversation about what to do by asking Mulder where to start. How should he know? You’re the one with the medical knowledge, Scully! Thankfully, she remembers this a couple of seconds after asking, because she starts taking pictures of the bodies. Mulder, meanwhile, is snooping around, and on a fancy looking refrigerator (fancy for 1993, I mean) finds samples of whatever it is these people were studying, and the ominous close-up of the ice is enough of a clue that weird stuff is about to go down.

Although, to be fair, this is The X-Files, so if you weren’t expecting the weird, then… uh… you should have been expecting the weird.

They continue looking around, and OH LOOK, there’s the dog! I’d almost forgotten about him. Of course, the dog is not dead, because killing five people is cool, but killing a dog on a TV show... that’s just cruel. The nameless dog is relatively okay, I assume, but he also has a bad case of the rabies or something, because he attacks Mulder and then Bear (the pilot) when the pilot tries to help. Mulder is unhurt; Bear, who you’ll notice I only just mentioned for the first time, is clearly injured, and if you’re not worried about that… well, you should be worried about that, because of logic: without Bear who’s going to fly them out of there?

(Don’t worry, this is why I’m here: to ask the important questions for you. ... at my television.)

But we’re still with the dog for a little while, as they manage to sedate him and then take turns examining the poor animal. The dog has issues -- black nodules, skin irritation, and oh, yes, a CRAZY FAST PREHISTORIC BUG THING moving inside of him.

Meanwhile, Bear is in the bathroom where he finds the same black nodules on himself as the dog had. That, of course, means they’re all screwed. Not that Bear is going to share this information anytime soon (because we wouldn't have much of an episode if he did, and the actor has to milk his screentime, after all).

A while later, Scully has finished the autopsies, and because she always gets to be Captain Obvious, says out loud what we all knew: The crew killed each other. Bear, only worried about himself (as you would be), inquires about the black nodules, but none of the bodies Scully autopsied had them. Bear is clearly relieved at this information, and his happiness lasts about 5 seconds until Smart Scientist appears to dash all his hopes by telling him that the nodules seemed to have disappeared from the dog, which means they could be the symptom of early stage infection only.

Mulder finds a disturbing but not altogether important paper saying: "We’re not who we are." And then, instead of discussing it, or, you know, freaking out like a normal person, Mulder gets into a technical conversation with the geologist who likes to listen to old NFL tapes. Something about how the depth of the ice was twice what it was supposed to be and where they digging inside a meteor or not... I don’t know, it’s not important. All that matters is what Mulder gets out of it.


In the other room, Scully and Smart Scientist are having an argument. Scully has discovered ammonium dioxide in the blood she was analyzing, which makes no scientific sense to Smart Scientist at all. The geologist, however, found the same thing in the water in the ice core. Mulder doesn’t understand what this means, so he asks Scully (because she knows everything). She looks at him like she might like him... until he brings up the aliens. People are not as horrified as they usually are when he brings up stuff like this. Looking into the microscope, both Mulder and Scully can see a little bug which Scully hypothesizes is the larval stage of some larger organism. No one else is convinced, other than Mulder -- of course -- because he likes the crazy explanations, especially when he isn’t the one that came up with them.

Bear chooses this precise moment to go full-blown crazy on them, saying that the autopsy makes clear the crew killed themselves, so they should all leave. There's no point in staying. Smart Scientist agrees, but Mulder insists on proper quarantine procedures, just in case the organism they discovered is infective. Bear wants no part of this, says he’s leaving, and promptly goes pick up his things. While he’s gone, the team agrees he needs to be forced into a quarantine. Mulder brings out the gun, but holds it like he has no intention of ever using it, which is why Bear gets the drop on him.

However, Bear is clearly not very good at counting, because it’s five against one, and he loses. While the team is restraining him, they observe the same movement under the skin previously seen on the dog. Smart Scientist decides to cut the parasite out, because, he theorizes, it will attempt to kill the host now that he’s been exposed. No explanation of how the bug is smart enough to know that is given, but they open him up and thankfully don’t show us as the thing (let's just call it "thing") is extracted. The worm manages to squirt a black substance before they put it in a jar. Since their pilot is somewhat compromised, Mulder contacts the airport and requests evacuation, only to be essentially told: "So sorry for you. Bad weather. No go." When he comes back, wanting to see if Bear is maybe, perhaps in a condition to fly the plane, he finds Bear dead.

(Told you Bear was toast, didn’t I?)

Smart Scientist compares the thing they extracted to a tapeworm, but doesn’t really know what it does or how you get infected. Scully re-examines the dead bodies and what do you know! Each and every one of them had the little buggers, though she only recovered one live worm. The reason why she missed them before, though, is that they were not in the spinal cord, but in the hypothalamus (we don’t want to know how long it took her to open up all those bodies and find this). Smart Scientist thinks that where those worms were found explains the irrational behavior of the crew and Bear, and Mulder concludes that the worms made the crew turn on and kill each other, and that the last two members were trying to prevent the rest of the world from getting infected.

Later, Mulder goes to talk to Scully, who’s re-examining the bodies again, and suggests they all take a break and go to sleep. Scully is having none of that, however. She wants the little bugs killed. Mulder wants them alive, because, well, because they’re proof of… no, I’m not going to say it. You can imagine it. Scully, predictably, reacts to this information with a healthy amount of disbelief and anger. "WHY, MULDER, WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT ALIENS WITH YOU?" (She asks this with her expression, because she never actually says those words). At this point, even if Mulder is right, I’m with Scully, because... seriously? A little creativity wouldn’t go amiss. Not everything has to be about aliens. There’s plenty of other weird stuff on this planet, dude.

The other three scientists, left alone, theorize about why our favorite agents are arguing and come to the conclusion that Mulder and Scully know more than they’re saying, because, well, they’re the government. Also, they’re really, really loud when they argue – so everyone decides to join them. A confrontation almost happens when Smart Scientist suggests Scully seems irritable, but Mulder manages to diffuse the situation and everyone agrees to be searched for the black nodules. ... Which sounds to me like Scully wanted to strip-search Mulder; but alas, the women check themselves, the men do the same. What a wasted opportunity. They’re all clean, so everyone goes to sleep. Alone. Which is just what I’d want to be if a killer worm was out there.


Scully doesn’t look like she’ll get any sleep, but Mulder manages to rest a little bit, because next thing we know he’s waking up from a nightmare of sorts. Since this is The X-Files, he hears a noise, and -- like the good agent he is -- decides to investigate. Also, because he clearly hasn’t seen enough scary movies in his life, he opens the freezer door that’s leaking blood, only for the body of Mr. NFL-Tapes to roll on top of him just as the other three appear. Talk about awkward.

Mulder says he didn’t kill the geologist, which is exactly what he’d say if he had, and insists one of the others is the murderer. Which, again, is exactly what the murderer would say. So when Scully pulls her gun on him, he points his gun right back at her. "Scully, it’s me," he says, "and I’m dead." "You might not be who you are," she replies, and I’ve been revived just so they can kill me again with the rest of this episode. It’s meant to be reminiscent of the opening, except for the part where Mulder retreats and the others lock him in a room. Just as he’s going inside, Mulder tells Scully that he’ll be safer inside than she’ll be outside.

Prophetic words indeed.

Back in the lab, both Blondie and Smart Scientist are sleeping in a very uncomfortable position in their chairs. Scully, not so subtly, tries to check Blondie’s neck, but Smart Scientist stops her. They gang up on her, insist they don’t feel safe while she’s got a gun, so she removes the clips from both her gun and Mulder’s and throws them outside. Next, they argue about what to do. Smart Scientist wants to leave Mulder; Scully won’t hear of it. She knows he’s weird, but she’s sort of starting to like him. (My words, not hers.) The airfield isn’t picking up, so they decide that the best course of action is to try and solve the mystery at hand.

Remember, they’ve had no sleep, so Blondie messes up the samples and – voila! She finds the solution. If you put two parasites together, they will kill each other; they’re territorial like that. They try it on the dog first, because apparently their logic is "Who cares if the dog dies?" and when it seems to work, the decide to use it on Mulder. And when I say "they decide," I mean Blondie and Smart Scientist decide, for Scully doesn’t seem convinced.

You know what UST is? Mulder and Scully coined that term. You want to know how? With scenes like the one that comes next, where Scully asks to talk to Mulder first, and once in the locked room, examines him and concludes he’s fine. When she’s moving away, we see Mulder’s hands in her neck, and I’m pretty sure looking for a parasite is not supposed to look this hot. The feels, you guys.

Both are clean, so they know it’s one of the other two. Selling that idea, however, proves problematic. Blondie and Smart Scientist manage to lock Scully inside the room and they grab the last worm and try to complete the procedure on Mulder. Literally a second before this happens, Smart Scientist catches a glimpse of movement on Blondie’s neck, and stops. They free Scully and the three go after the runaway madwoman who somehow finds a LOADED GUN INSIDE AN EVIDENCE BAG, because Mulder and Scully are the WORST AGENTS IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND, OMG.

... Okay, rant over.

Mulder overpowers the woman with the gun, because he might lack common sense, but he sure is good with his hands (*winkwink*) and between the three of them they manage to, you know, put the worm in her ear (ewwwww) and cure her. Later, back at the airfield, Blondie is in a biohazard suit, Mulder, Scully and Smart Scientist are fine, and they’re all going home. Yay! Mulder wants to go back, but he can’t, because -- listen to this, because this never ever happens on The X-Files -- they TORCHED THE PLACE to prevent infection. The worms are still there, says Mulder. And Scully has probably the smartest line in the whole episode when she tells Mulder to leave them there.

Amen. She still has enough time to throw him a look of death when he seems to hesitate, and the episode ends as Mulder finally acquiesces and walks with Scully to what we assume is the vehicle that’s going to take them far away from Icy Cape, Alaska – never to return.

Quote of the episode:

Mulder: [taking his shirt off for a physical exam] Before anyone passes judgment, may I remind you -- we are in the Arctic.

Scary moment of the episode:

Creepy worms are not exactly the stuff of nightmares, so I’ll go with the Mulder/Scully confrontation with guns drawn. It’s still early in the show, but you never want to see the two main characters in a position where they might shoot each other. Not the usual kind of scary, but there you go.

Mulder/Scully moment of the episode:

No-brainer this time. The whole "I’ll check you, you’ll check me" thing could have been done in a much more detached, clinical way. But if they had, then they wouldn’t be the gold standard for slow-burn couples. No, when they put their hands on each other, they really, really go for it. This is closer to a tantric massage than it is to a doctor’s checkup, but we’ll take it. We’ll take it.


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