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'X-Files' Fridays: Like someone's bad date

Season 2 | Episode 4 | “Sleepless” | Aired Oct 7, 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, Mulder tucks in his T-shirt, then suggests that he’s qualified to offer wardrobe advice.

KELLY: Welcome to the game, Alex Krycek.

ANDREA: Oh, look! It’s another edition of, “It’s been over 15 years since Andrea watched this episode for the first time, so she totally forgets that THIS episode is when THIS character shows up!” But really, for being the subtle setup to the first huge mythology arc, this episode was really well done in terms of where it put our characters. This is the first time they’ve actually tried to pull Mulder and Scully apart by forcing Mulder to work with someone else, rather than just trying to keep them away from each other.

KELLY: As always, they’re fighting a losing battle. Mulder and Scully don’t want Krycek around—Mulder ditches him and keeps secrets, and Scully literally ignores his outstretched hand (beautiful). They’re RIGHT, obviously, but there’s a sense that they aren’t boxing him out because they have good instincts about him. They just don’t want to work with anyone else. But maybe that is instinct, in a way: the instinct to trust no one. Krycek unintentionally pushes Scully and Mulder closer together by giving them someone else to shut out (“Reassigning them to other sections seems only to have strengthened their determination”), but that victory for their relationship also makes him a danger to their lives. Everything that bonds them is also a threat.

krycek sleepless

ANDREA: I’m so glad you brought up Scully literally ignoring Krycek’s outstretched hand, because that’s one of those subtle metaphors that I love. It’s “trust no one” to its core, and I feel like it’s one of the first times Mulder and Scully don’t try to hide their suspicions about the situation that they’re in. Mulder is always paranoid, and Scully is feeling more and more like the cards are stacked against her. But Krycek, in a way, represents the nail in the coffin for the people trying to control them. Mulder and Scully started out thinking they didn’t need each other, and in some sense, they refuse to believe they do. They know how important they are to each other, and they’ll make no secret of that, but they also sometimes don’t like to admit that they need each other to depend on—not just for things like the truth, but because otherwise, they’re in danger.

KELLY: They’re definitely starting to deny that danger. Mulder knew when the X-Files were first shut down that even being seen with Scully was a bad idea, but they’re beginning to get reckless. They’re bringing attention to what they can do together. It’s fitting that this week’s case should be about the consequences of bending people into weapons, because that’s exactly what the Syndicate is trying to do to Mulder and Scully. And what we’re seeing from Cole is that the war never ends. The military is paying for its experiments now, but the test subjects are paying too—they lost part of themselves that they can never get back. The question isn’t whether Mulder and Scully will keep fighting; it’s what they’ll lose in the process.

ANDREA: And you start to get a sense of, “Do they want to keep fighting?” Obviously they do, but you can tell it’s getting to both of them and sort of wearing them down. In some way, that only makes them fight harder. They’re never going to let anyone come between them or their work. But you really see the differences in partnership here. At the end of the episode, Mulder only wants to take Cole into custody and talk to him—but Krycek shoots to kill. (I know he thought he was armed, but still.) You know that if it were Mulder and Scully together, they would have been able to formulate some sort of conversation that would allow them to detain Cole. But Krycek doesn’t have that relationship with Mulder. He’s just an agent who will do whatever it takes to solve a case. (While spying, of course.)

KELLY: I agree that Scully would have trusted Mulder’s assumption even if she didn’t share it. “Sleepless” acts as another reminder that closing the X-Files cost lives: Mulder is able to look at Cole and see that he’s messing with their heads, but he doesn’t have Scully to back him up, and Cole dies as a result. But this time, we’re asked to question whether that life should be saved. Cole projected a gun on purpose. He was ready to die, and Mulder knows that, too. (“You did the right thing.”) Cole talks about death—not just his, but everyone’s—as mercy, because the world is that dark and the system is that hard to escape. You’ll note that Gerardi shames Cole for “volunteering” for the program, but also says they were both just following orders. Is choice even real? He doesn’t seem to think that he has a say in anything but death. He does obviously have a choice in killing, but you can see how the system got so twisted.

ANDREA: Can we note what this episode, and all its talk about death and the consequences of following orders, comes right before? I don’t think it was intentionally written to act as a foreshadowing for what’s to come (although I can never be too sure), but the whole discussion about “choice” plays into a larger picture. Does Mulder have a choice in anything except following orders? He knows that if he doesn’t, he’ll really get in trouble (and Scully’s life will probably be in danger). It’s a tricky thing that has to be played out carefully, because one small error and you WILL get killed.

KELLY: I think it’s absolutely written to foreshadow—the scene revealing Krycek as a mole just screams that something is coming. Mulder and Scully don’t know what that is yet, but they keep drawing closer to each other (both figuratively and in terms of the literal lack of space between them). They’re making this bubble around them smaller and smaller, like they feel it too without knowing the particulars. Mulder is always worried that Scully got into this life without understanding how dangerous it could be, but no matter what his guilt makes him believe, he’s warning her—he echoes Mr. X’s warnings here—and she hears him. Scully knows that they’re upsetting powerful people, and she’s fully capable of accepting the risks herself. For all of the choices she and Mulder don’t get to make, she always chooses to stay.

xfiles sleepless mulder scully

ANDREA: We see throughout the series that no matter what happens, Scully chooses to stay, even when she’s given an opportunity to leave. Even when it’s safer. Scully proves that she’ll do anything to be there for him, whether it’s running tests in the middle of the night or breaking laws or backing him up on some crazy theory. It’s also interesting that this episode plays with Mulder’s head a little bit, and his visions. So much of Mulder’s life is convincing people that he’s NOT crazy, that it’s NOT all in his head. Scully never questions that.

KELLY: Not to go all Dumbledore on us, but Scully is the only one who understands that just because it’s happening in his head, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. She’s especially equipped to accept that here, where the entire case is built on a scientific experiment. Even Cole’s supernatural ability is a byproduct of something that was done to him by people. We’ve seen the government spin the paranormal to its advantage and then hide it away, but it’s doing the same with science. Scully’s system of beliefs is being corrupted as much as Mulder’s.

ANDREA: (Slow claps for that Harry Potter shout-out, by the way.) It makes it all the more poignant when you consider what’s coming up—not to beat a dead horse, but a lot of what happens in “Duane Barry” (as well as in the future of the show) centers on people being scientific experiments. No matter what the explanation is, there’s always the byproduct of something that was done by someone else, the government or another nemesis altogether, a kind of violation. There’s no clear “science vs. faith” argument anymore when science is the thing that is causing half of these issues. And that only makes Scully trust Mulder more, when she can’t rely on her science to make sense.

KELLY: She does still like her science, though. She sticks with it, even when it hurts her—which is yet another reason that she and Mulder aren’t that different at the end of the day. While Krycek is over there spouting “I want to believe” every five seconds to win Mulder over, Scully is finding actual common ground with him—which coexists just fine with the way she “pokes holes in all his theories.” He knows he needs it.

ANDREA: Just goes to show that there’s more to being partners and building trust than there might seem. Scully didn’t know much about Mulder when she was placed with him, but they hit it off. Krycek, for all his sleaziness, has done his research on Mulder—but he can’t quite figure out how to mesh with him. (Not even in Speedos.)

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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