The X-Files: The Pine Bluff Variant   Rewatch 
June 20, 2020 7:34 PM - Season 5, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Mulder goes undercover as a double agent in order to infiltrate a terrorist organization that has access to a horrifying biological weapon.
posted by orange swan (3 comments total)
Is it wrong for me to admit that I like this episode very much despite its many and varied flaws? This episode is a departure, effectively tense, and relentlessly paced.

Microbiology doesn't work like that, the bioweapon is laughably implausible. But this is the same show that also gave us an ultra lethal smallpox variant that isn't naturally (very) transmissible.

Mulder and Scully are so far outside of their wheelhouses, and there's another non-Syndicate conspiracy. I don't really have a problem with ultra-deep cover beardy-guy, but it was a little bit ridiculous. "That gun's traceable." would have been a better clue if the writers could be trusted better.

Neither Duchovny nor Mulder come across convincingly as a tree of liberty/ blood of patriots type. I thought that the militia leader (Daniel von Bargen) must be a recurring character, but nope, he's just That Guy in all his roles. I thought that the milita approaching Mulder wasn't too implausible - just in error. Maybe they heard about Mulder getting away with killing a man and blowing his face off with a shotgun.

Scully's epic high heeled sprint aside, she has horrendous opsec - the entire operation was a clusterF from its inception - but she was just being well-intentioned Scully.

Cute Chekov's splinted pinky finger, and of course Scully would notice.

Finally we're starting to see Mulder spiraling down the bitter path. Having this episode precede 'Patient X'/ 'The Red and the Black' would have made those feel much more convincing.
posted by porpoise at 12:56 PM on June 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Kate Braidwood, who played the movie theater ticket person/popcorn person/usherette, is the daughter of X-Files first assistant director Tom Braidwood, who also plays Frohike. She also appeared in "Elegy" as one of the psychiatric hospital inmates.

The movie playing at the theatre when all those people die a horrible death of the biotoxin is Die Hard: With a Vengeance, heh.

Scully: (with attitude rings lobby bell) Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room, room 130.
Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Manager: Mr. uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan.
Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: [shortly] Not even close.

I'm surprised this ploy to get Mulder's undercover name worked, because it makes no sense (the manager would know Scully wasn't in room 130, and if she were, she would want a change in room assignments, not just the guy's name), but the "not even close" made me laugh and also reminds me of Scully's adamant "he is NOT my husband" line in the 2008 movie. The best poor Mulder is ever going to hope for is some action, never a lasting commitment.

Mulder isn't good at lying to Scully. Come to think of it, Mulder isn't good at lying at all. He's fundamentally an honest person with an obsession for finding out the truth, probably because he feels the truth has been kept from him all his life, first by his parents, and now by the authorities/conspiracy agents. Scully should have been kept apprised of the situation.

If August Bremer was a U.S. government agent, he wouldn't have any need to spy on Mulder and Scully's conversation as he would have been told Mulder was a double agent -- so I don't know who he works for.
posted by orange swan at 5:06 PM on June 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks for pointing that out, I concede Scully props for good spycraft at the motel.

Never underestimate the very short lengths that an underpaid employee will go to, just to get rid of a 'Karen.'

She was pretty cross with Mulder at that point, fwiw. But keep in mind that getting the name is a relatively very low cost "ask" (versus asking for keys/ changing keys/ revoking keys/ calling authorities).

Subterfuge isn't Mulder's strong suit, absolutely agreed. But I can't ascribe that to Duchovny playing that. Maybe I'm spoiled by Tim Roth's characterization of a similar character in 'Reservoir Dogs.'

I'm not sure that August Bremer/ beardy guy (?) is an "official" government agent. It is curious that he wanted to get proof that Mulder's a mole - he might have been tipped off that Mulder's on the up-and-up - and using it to deepen his own cover (by exposing another mole) is a play - not a fair one, but still a play - further suggesting that Bremer isn't "official."

Also, being so deep in cover, getting caught up with news is hard to do. My take is that Bremer works for the bosses who controlled the official guy who covered up against Skinner/ Scully/ Mulder. A n-th conspiracy party who has an entirely independent agenda (and probably a very banal one, compared to the Syndicate) that wanted some real-world data for their bioweapon.

Who that conspiracy might aspire to sell a terrible WMD bioweapon to, or how they might benefit from having access and deployment SOPs for one... I couldn't imagine - given the politics at the time.

Given the politics at the time, I'd surmise a faction that wanted to discredit the Clinton administration by framing them as developing and deploying a controllable weapon of mass destruction to frame the far-right-wing, causing a backlash against Democratic progressiveness.

Bremer offing the milita leader who knew too much makes perfect sense. That he lets Mulder go is much murkier. Maybe he feels guilty and thinks that Mulder might one day expose his boss's particular shadiness. Letting Mulder go really contradicts Bremer's motivations (self preservation, protection of his bosses ultimate objectives).
posted by porpoise at 6:58 PM on June 21, 2020

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