The X-Files: Zero Sum   Rewatch 
May 30, 2020 7:11 PM - Season 4, Episode 21 - Subscribe

After a postal worker is fatally swarmed by bees in the bathroom at work, Skinner destroys the evidence at the Cigarette Smoking Man's behest in a deal to save Scully's life... only to find himself framed for murder.
posted by orange swan (4 comments total)
 
I don't know how self aware the writers are, but sometimes - sometimes - I can see them recognizing that if they weren't white dudes who got lucky, they might have ended up being a postal depot scanners (or stayed as a postal depot scanner). That and the "bully" coworker who one actually cares for enough to put one's neck on the line to check up on them even though they're a terribly abusive (only?) "friend."

Could be a coincidence.


Kind of funny what a crummy job Skinner does on the crime scene. Whether he wanted to sanitize the place or just remove key physical evidence, there are definitely far more effective and efficient ways of doing it - even in the late 90s.

Pileggi is a beast irl - props for showing the effort it takes to haul a 180+ lb corpse around and up a whole bunch of stairs.

Mulder showing up in the middle of the night (4am) to bug someone about something. I wonder if he has gestapo ancestors who passed on epigenetic proclivity for this sort of thing.

Skinner is way too much of a boyscout at this point to be effective in the new world that he's found himself in. Incredible Skinner episode. "Tell me what you find?"

Maybe the first overt evidence that Covarrubias isn't doing MS&S favours out of the goodness of her heart? She pwned Walter.

When Mulder is in intense mode - I liked how the writers distilled Mulder's dialogue into the minimal needed. It's almost neurolinguistic hacking like, his reasoned train of (certain) distilled facts - as delivered by Duchovny - bullet trains through any defense or question or doubt.

The schoolyard scene could have been a captivating cold open on its own.
posted by porpoise at 9:17 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


This episode has such a Hitchcockian feel to me, even to the name, complete with a svelte Hitchcock blonde. And with a bonus shot of Walter Skinner in his tighty whities.

Pileggi is a beast irl - props for showing the effort it takes to haul a 180+ lb corpse around and up a whole bunch of stairs.

I almost thought they made it look too easy. I'm sure that wasn't the actress's actual body in the body bag over his shoulder (though it was her in the morgue -- such a thankless role for her!), and I wonder if they would have weighted the bag to be the same weight, or if he was simply acting like it was heavy.

Skinner is way too much of a boyscout at this point to be effective in the new world that he's found himself in.

Yes, he's good at keeping his own counsel and a level head, and giving nothing away, but he's no liar and doesn't know how to beat a criminal at his own game. It was satisfying to see CSM look all shaken up after Skinner fired off those rounds into the wall just behind him, though.

The schoolyard scene could have been a captivating cold open on its own.

I remembered that scene as actually being a cold open.

Skinner is a very decent housekeeper (or he hires help, but would such a private man do that?). That apartment was as severely plain as could be, but immaculate.

It never occurs to Mulder that if Skinner isn't answering his phone, it might be because it's 4 in the morning and he's trying to sleep. At least this time there was some urgency in the matter.

Misty telling Skinner that she and Jane had planned to go on vacation together and that they were trying to lose weight to buy new bathing suits always struck me as a particularly ludicrous bit of pathos. He's not the kind of man a woman would ordinarily say that sort of thing to.

I wish Marita Covarrubias had been fleshed out a little more as a character during the run of the show. She always seems so much more like an archetype than an actual person.

All those people got infected with smallpox, but it didn't cause an epidemic?

And the moral of the story is, if you must smoke, at least go outside instead of stinking up a public bathroom like an asshole.
posted by orange swan at 5:38 PM on May 31


The prop Pileggi was humping up the stairs - definitely not 180 pounds. But substantial enough that it wasn't ludicrous (like the 'Better Call Saul' episode(s) with Jimmy carrying a couple of 150 lb bags across a desert).

Amazing Pileggi moment with CSM - original viewing, I remember actually wondering if Skinner would acutally shoot CSM or not.

The schoolyard thing, maybe it was a cold open in a movie? Can't remember, can't be bothered to verify right now.

Skinner's a marine. Old habits can die hard. I can't recall an episode where Skinner is sexist (about "women's work") - but his inefficiency at cleaning a crime scene suggests he isn't great at the theory and practice of cleaning. So probably hired cleaners - but he's so austere that he wouldn't keep sensitive materials in his home; at least, not accessible. Which should also make his cleaning service pretty damned easy (comparatively).

He's not the kind of man a woman would ordinarily say that sort of thing to.
Unless she's trying to hit on him? But yeah, this tweaked my "only clueless dude writers" sensibility.

In retrospect, I appreciated Covarrubias/ Laurie Holden for her form, but always wondered why the writers made her that way other than "eye candy." iirc, my original pet theory was that she was alien or synthetic.

The smallpox - my apologia is that this was an attenuated/ engineered version that had low transmissibility but very high lethality. That making more of the inoculum required some alien tech/ tissue intermediate.

The 'smoking in the restroom' thing - that's got to be old male writers thing. The only way that works is if smoking indoors in the facility is allowed, but only allowed to the salaried staff and not the hourlies. Same with "highschool kids" smoking in the bathroom. Only works if most of the teachers/ staff are heavy smokers and can't detect instances of indoor smoking.

In college, I was an indoor (and in-car) smoker (never again - although I reverted to being a car smoker for a couple of years in the early 10's) and in retrospect, I (we) were so disgusting.

I have a neighbour on my floor (in a highrise with no non-smoking rules) who's an indoor smoker and it kind of sucks (especially for my quitting again plans for the summer). fwiw, I'm still a smoker but purely outdoors and trying to limit my balcony smoking.
posted by porpoise at 6:14 PM on May 31


It's just occurred to me that Jane is another case in point supporting my thesis that, in The X-Files universe, smoking is a red flag indicating a terrible person (i.e., Jane expected her best friend to put her own job at risk to cover for her while she went on her second smoke break in an hour, and stunk up the ladies' room instead of going outside).
posted by orange swan at 9:43 AM on June 1


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