The X-Files: Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose   Rewatch 
September 6, 2015 10:02 PM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Mulder and Scully receive help in the investigation of a murder case from a reluctant psychic.
posted by town of cats (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First off, I just have to say, look at the author notes and comment thread for the (stellar) MotW strip for this episode. So great.

I was trying to view this episode with a jaundiced eye after the conversation UH and I had on Humbug's post, but I can't help it, I love Clyde Bruckman. When I was younger it was actually my least favorite of Darin Morgan's episodes because it seemed less zany and more down-to-earth, Stupendous Yappi and sinister Pomeranian and doll collector and all notwithstanding. It has zany trappings but it's not as much of a laugh-fest, I felt. I've always been the kind of person who preferred my entertainments a little more on the Looney Tunes side and this episode's pacing and comedic timing are just more sedate. But now that I am older and wiser I like it better. But then of course I was like, "But do I like it better than Humbug? Not really. And do I like it better than Jose Chung? Perish the thought. And did I ever prefer War of the Coprophages to this one? No." So actually it's still probably my #3 Darin Morgan episode...but I like it better than I used to, anyway.

There are just so many great lines. Peter Boyle is a master here at delivering funny lines, totally straight, and straight lines with humanity and feeling. When he started pitching Mulder on life insurance in the middle of his discussion of the burden of knowing how people will die..."I'm not smiling, I'm wincing"...when he's trying at the beginning to pretend as though the totally creepy dead-body details he knew were just the obvious guesses anyone would make...he's so good. He won an Emmy for this role which was richly deserved.

I love the relationships that develop with Mulder and Scully over the course of the episode. I think one thing Darin Morgan's episodes all share is their tenderness for Scully; as I've aged I've gone from a Mulder fangirl to a total Scully partisan and she is so often cast as the killjoy and wet blanket whose boring insistence on facts ruins all the fun. Darin Morgan's episodes don't make her much more right, but they're always sympathetic to her and cherish her personality in a way many other writers' don't. Both Clyde Bruckman and Jose Chung take a liking to her and are on her side. It makes a nice change.

I recently stayed in a hotel in Taiwan with those iconic red bellhop uniforms so that was funny to see in this episode. And somehow in all of my previous viewings I never took note of the funny Beyond the Sea callout when Bruckman holds the fabric to his forehead and says it's Mulder's New York Knicks t-shirt! I feel quite certain I most have noticed that before because how could I not, but I had no memory of it whatsoever.

Weirdly, I was just trying to remember this morning which episode "fat little white Nazi stormtrooper" was from and here it was. AM I PSYCHIC
posted by town of cats at 10:26 PM on September 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I guess in rereading my previous post, I dance around the actual substance of the episode, because I didn't know how to address it. Well, Darin Morgan was apparently suicidal while writing it, and it shows. If it weren't for all the jokes, I think the episode would be a real downer. It's ultimately a sad episode about a sad guy who dies in a sad way, and kind of about how futile life is. But it's also about how humans mostly keep on living anyway, and maybe do a little good while we're here. If you haven't seen it, even if you aren't a fan of the X-Files in general, check it out.
posted by town of cats at 10:42 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

My favorite episode of the whole show. Poignant and hilarious and magnificent.

Favorite moments: Bruckman trolling Mulder about auto erotic asphyxiation, and when Scully finally breaks down and asks Bruckman - who you'll note is never wrong in the episode, even in the supposedly not serious prediction about he and Scully in bed together - "okay, how do I die?". And he just says "you don't."
posted by Naberius at 5:41 AM on September 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bit off-topic of me, but I think the "You don't [die]" thing puts Scully in some good company. The end to Pulp Fiction is great, primarily because we know what happens next as a result of the characters' choices to continue or leave their profession/lifestyle. For some reason I always mentally equate Samuel L Jackson's character with Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol: "Jules, who did not die...". Had forgotten that the same applied to Scully.

Probably just temperament/preference thing but this is actually my favourite of the Darin Morgan episodes and top three of the series if not flat-out favourite. I'm always surprised to hear the patchier, less-coherent "José Chung's..." get all the love despite its many great qualities.
posted by comealongpole at 1:21 PM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

As I said in the previous thread, I am apparently the only X-Files fan on Earth who can't stand this episode. Since it's so very beloved by so many people I don't think there's much to be gained by another rant about how much I don't like it. You're all nuts, basically.

I was trying to view this episode with a jaundiced eye after the conversation UH and I had on Humbug's post

I like how I am apparently recognizable just by my initials now! I just wish my initials didn't spell "Uh". (I used to have a cartoon series on Youtube called Ursula Hitler's Head, so for a few years my notebooks were full of "UHH" and it made it seem like I was constantly forgetting what I'd been writing about.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:21 PM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Bruckman trolling Mulder about auto erotic asphyxiation"

Are we sure that he was trolling?
posted by I-baLL at 11:07 AM on September 8, 2015

" I don't think there's much to be gained by another rant about how much I don't like it. "

I think quite a few of us are on here for rants like this so, please, rant ahead!
posted by I-baLL at 11:08 AM on September 8, 2015

comealongpole, I totally concede thatClyde Bruckman is objectively better than any of Darin Morgan's other episodes and as such may be the single best episode of X-Files ever made. But I just don't love it as much, personally. I think there's more to hang my hat on emotionally in Humbug, and I have complicated opinions about Jose Chung that I'll go into soon once I do the rewatch :) I've always kind of felt bad about myself that I didn't like Clyde Bruckman as much as I should because as television it's a spectacular achievement. The writing, directing and acting are all top notch.
posted by town of cats at 10:41 PM on September 8, 2015

I think quite a few of us are on here for rants like this so, please, rant ahead!

I know I'm not going to change anybody's mind and at this point in my life I don't get the same charge out of harshing other people's buzzes that I once did. Just, you know those later comedy episodes of The X-Files that totally did not work, where the self-indulgence and the smirky quirk just got insufferable? Pick your least favorite "funny" episode, the one that makes you irrationally angry. Is it Hollywood AD? The one with Kathy Griffin? The one where Burt Reynolds was God? The one with the two cheerleaders who keep saying "Hate 'em, wouldn't wanna date 'em"? There have to be one or two of those clunkers for you, because The X-Files did a lot of smirky comedy episodes and pretty much everybody agrees that at least a few of them were pretty awful.

Well, Clyde Bruckman is maybe the worst of those for me (it's neck and neck with Jose Chung). Clyde Bruckman is at least as bad to me as your own worst comedy episode of the X-Files is to you, and it's probably bad in many of the same ways. Except instead of it just being really really bad, I have to put up with a lot of other fans swooning about it being the best one ever. Imagine if everybody was like, Oh, my God, that one with Burt Reynolds as God was the BEST! How would you cope with that? If you're anything like me you'd bitch about it for years before you'd finally make peace with it and throw it on the pile of things that are simply meant for people who aren't you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:42 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ursula, I feel the same way about Star Trek 4.

(This is totally the best episode of the X-Files, though.)
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:34 AM on September 9, 2015

This is one of the only episodes of television that I finished and felt I had to watch again immediately.

Bruckman's "you don't [die]" line to Scully spawned numerous fan theories, but I believe Morgan said that Bruckman was just being nice. Which is crazy to me. If you're being nice, don't imply someone's immortal. That would freak me out.
posted by john-a-dreams at 11:05 AM on September 9, 2015

My personal theory is that his ability to predict death only lasted up to the time of his death, so "You Don't" means he doesn't see her die, because any death she faced was after his death. Is there anything that contradicts that in the episode?
posted by gryftir at 1:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hmm. What about the guy he's trying to sell life insurance to (the one who says he's got to work on his closing technique)? Was it implied that that guy's demise was imminent? I can't remember.
posted by town of cats at 6:03 PM on September 10, 2015

Don't forget about Scully's immortality for S6E10.
posted by Monochrome at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2015

Definitely among my favourite episodes. The only way the grimness could work is with the humour.

Boyle showed the weariness and how he's been able to temper the bitterness that must have come with his limited clairvoyance with sad-but-not-quite-defeated humour. Seeing so much grief and still being empathetic to it and the frustration of the limits of his ability (each of his lottery numbers were off by one, choosing not to interfere with his predictions qv his elderly neighbour). Definitely deserved the accolades he got for this performance.

The "teardrop" inside the plastic bag might have been a little bit too much, I wonder if it was a coincidence or if they tried for the effect - Anderson's waterfall of emotions as she realizes what Bruckman meant, then all the cascading implications of it actually happening was more than sufficient.

I wonder, though, how much influence Bruckman had on the future. Did he perhaps see a different death for himself, like does he see possibilities for events in the future - how Mulder gets attacked - and is able to put his thumb on the scale, so to speak, to influence the balance of probability? That he was perhaps less befuddled than he let on.

Like, using the observer effect, he chooses that Scully returns to find him suicided and decided that he'd prefer this over... whatever he originally saw (along the same vein, also saving Mulder)?

But then again, I like most of the jokey X Files episodes. This, 'How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,' 'The Amazing Maleeni,' 'Hollywood AD,' 'Jose Chung's...,' etc.
posted by porpoise at 7:35 PM on April 19, 2020

Mulder: Get this, Scully. The lab analysis from the first bit of fiber that was found just came back. It's lace.
Scully: Chantilly lace?
Mulder: You know what I like.

I think Clyde's "you don't die" prediction for Scully might be a reference to the episode "Tithonus" in season 6, when she is about to die after being shot, but her death is taken by Alfred Fellig, who has been alive for 150 years or so and is anxious to shrug off this mortal coil. Perhaps the only death Clyde is able to foresee for Scully is the one she's "supposed" to have, but is saved from.

The autoerotic asphyxiation prediction for Mulder always makes me giggle. Peter Boyle was absolutely wonderful in this episode, both a comic and a tragic virtuoso actor.

This is the second episode in a row in which the lead guest actor's character has a special power, and his life is only been made worse by it. Having supernatural powers must be like winning the lottery: you think it would be amazing, but it never seems to play out that way in fiction/real life statistics, and often ruins people's lives. I remain convinced I would be able to handle winning the lottery with aplomb, but I sure as hell wouldn't want the ability to foresee how everyone I meet will die.

My personal theory is that his ability to predict death only lasted up to the time of his death, so "You Don't" means he doesn't see her die, because any death she faced was after his death. Is there anything that contradicts that in the episode?

Yes, in the cold open, when Clyde predicts that the young husband he's trying to sell insurance to will die, he says it will happen "two years from now".

Mulder's New York Knicks t-shirt must be getting terribly ragged.
posted by orange swan at 1:19 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and in this episode Scully adopts her Pomeranian dog Queequeg, which I would enjoy a whole hell of a lot more if I didn't know what soon to happen to the poor little guy.
posted by orange swan at 1:30 PM on April 20, 2020

Further to the discussion about Mulder's terrible combat skills, in this episode he was taken down by a bellhop. A BELLHOP.
posted by orange swan at 9:14 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

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