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'X-Files' Fridays: Trust no one

Season 1 | Episode 24 | “The Erlenmeyer Flask” | Aired May 13, 1994

It’s been over two decades since The X-Files made its debut, but the series is as relevant as ever, and with a revival on the horizon, there’s no better time to revisit it—or to discover it for the first time. Community assistant editors Andrea Towers, who watched in its original run, and Kelly Connolly, who was introduced to the show last summer, will be here each week to talk it out. Next up, Scully wears five layers of beige.

KELLY: How better to celebrate the season one finale than with Scully leveraging an Alien Baby™ for Mulder’s life?

ANDREA: Trust no one, Kelly. Trust. No. One.

KELLY: It’s fitting that Deep Throat issues his (instantly iconic) “Trust no one” warning about two minutes after ordering Scully to trust him, because she has no one else. She and Mulder always seem to find themselves backed into that corner—unable to believe what anyone is telling them but forced to proceed as if they do, because they don’t have any other options. The line between skepticism and belief on this show isn’t as clear cut as it may seem; generally speaking, Scully and Mulder would be dead if they didn’t both doubt and trust in equal measures. It’s like they have to doubt internally but trust with their actions—Scully would be shot if she didn’t let Deep Throat hand over that package for her, but she only got that far using her experience as a scientist.

ANDREA: All of this. This show isn’t just black and white. It’s not just about Scully being the scientist, and Mulder believing in aliens, and you have to trust one or the other. It’s about THEM. It’s about their relationships, their faith in each other. They have to trust one another, but they also have to trust the situation, and that doesn’t just extend to believing in little green men. For over 20 episodes, we’ve seen them falter and we’ve seen them doubt, but we’ve also seen them believe and we’ve seen them become closer. By the end of this episode, they’re not just partners—they’re truly on equal footing in terms of how much they trust each other. Scully realizes how important Mulder is to her. But all of that was built on them allowing each other into their worlds for a bit.

KELLY: I think we see that trust the conversation they have outside the storage facility. Scully doesn’t want to be one of those people who laughs Mulder out of every room, so she apologizes for the fact that she didn’t trust his instincts. And Mulder just shrugs it right off with, “Why? Nobody else does.” I think it genuinely is that easy for him to forgive her, because just having someone who cares enough to apologize is new to him. He doesn’t look upset with Scully so much as in awe of the fact that he’s found someone who respects him and wants his respect in return.

And then, of course, he makes a big dramatic show about how “nothing sacred will hold,” and they go inside to find absolutely no hybrids in tanks, because Scully always has to miss the big reveals. I think what you said about allowing each other into their respective worlds is key, but really, this is Mulder’s world that Scully has stepped into. She’s willing to change her beliefs in order to incorporate whatever new mysteries she might see, but she can only see so much at this point. This show is like Deep Throat—parceling out information whenever it sees fit.

xfiles scully erlenmeyer alien

ANDREA: It’s okay; Mulder will miss big reveals soon enough. But I remember watching originally when it aired, and this was such a big episode. I honestly don’t remember what the state of TV was like at the time, largely because the Internet wasn’t really a thing yet, and I didn’t follow that news elsewhere, so I don’t know if it had gotten renewed or if they were still waiting to kind of see how it would do as a show. But even though we had been shown aliens before and been shown strange things that had tested both Mulder’s patience and Scully’s skepticism—even though we had been introduced to the mythology—it felt like the stakes were higher. I mean, ALIENS IN FLASKS! GOVERNMENT SECRETS! This really is Mulder’s world, and we’re along for the ride, even if the FBI isn’t.

KELLY: The FBI just wants to derail the ride. My favorite scene of this episode is Mulder’s phone call to Scully. It’s a direct parallel to the end of the pilot (can you imagine if the show hadn’t been renewed and this were the finale? Now The X-Files can’t have a series finale even if it tries), but instead of a promise to talk about something tomorrow, we get the news that they’re being shut down. And Scully is not having it. He has to lodge a complaint. They have to still be partners. He wouldn’t even be the Mulder she wants to partner with if he quit now—it’s not his style. (“I’m not going to give up. I can’t give up.”)

Which is precisely why the FBI and the Syndicate are so afraid of them. When Scully hands over the alien baby in exchange for Mulder, as much as she wants him back, she doesn’t appreciate the way Deep Throat seems willing to put thousands of other lives in jeopardy just to save her partner (Dana Scully: Better than me since always). But Deep Throat knows that Scully and Mulder are actually a much more important piece of the puzzle than this one shred of evidence—so even when they prioritize each other, they’re serving a larger purpose.

ANDREA: It’s funny that you say your favorite scene is the phone call, because one of my favorite scenes is that last shot that’s also kind of identical to the pilot, with CSM putting the alien fetus in storage the same way he did for Billy Miles’ implant. It just brings that sense of anxiety to the hour, coupled with the fact that we have Mulder and Scully learning they’ve been shut down. I think what’s most telling, though, is the fact that we feel their emotions during this call. We feel their pain, their frustration. We’ve become as close with them as they’ve become with each other, which is due to David and Gillian’s acting, but also just Scully and Mulder’s chemistry as characters. They’re a part of us, and we’re along for the ride, so we’d better find a way to continue on that ride (like Mulder will next season.)

xfiles erlenmeyer mulder

And I think we really need to commend Deep Throat—the first of Mulder’s informants who really paved the way, both in trust and also in opening their world of mythology. I like the people who come after him and who, more or less, take his place, but Deep Throat was so classically close to this—closer than anyone else.

KELLY: Deep Throat’s voice alone deserves commendation. He’s such a confusingly fatherly figure. Mulder is on to something when he says that he’s not sure who’s more dependent on whom—which stands as a kind of counterpoint to Mulder’s relationship with Scully, because Mulder and Scully need each other, but they aren’t using each other for their own ends. They’re fighting the same men in the same shadows. The way that scene with CSM repeats what we saw in the pilot gives a kind of cyclical hopelessness to this whole season. No matter what Mulder and Scully uncover, someone is just going to hide it away in the basement of the Pentagon. Bigger and bigger truths are being denied. This is what Mulder and Scully are up against, and this is what’s been trying to pull them apart since before they even met.

ANDREA: Exactly. And I think it’s so interesting because, guess what? The good guys don’t always win. In TV today, there’s a sense of, “Everything has to be a big mystery, be bigger or better or cause some huge issue with its main characters” in order to keep the momentum going. The X-Files did it quietly, by showing us that people can be broken down, that things sometimes aren’t fair, that sometimes our worst enemies and the most dangerous people are right underneath our noses. I think that’s something that gets taken for granted now. (Also, Mulder/Scully season one and two phone calls will always have a place in my heart.)

KELLY: You’ve touched on one of the reasons I can’t shake this show—there are no easy answers. There are very few answers to be found at all, but Mulder and Scully keep asking questions and looking for answers anyway. And occasionally guessing at secret government passwords and getting them right, because they’re very cool, very young badasses dressed in oversize coats.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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