The X-Files: Small Potatoes   Rewatch 
October 25, 2015 8:14 PM - Season 4, Episode 20 - Subscribe

A town celebrates a surprising number of births in a short span of time, only all the newborns have tails...
posted by town of cats (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I actually watched this episode back-to-back with Never Again because I knew I had a few busy weeks coming up and wanted to get ahead. They make a really interesting combination, I guess because we so rarely see a side of Scully that's even slightly open to romantic overtures and seeing them right next to each other is just strange.

Watching this one back-to-back with next week's episode, Post-Modern Prometheus, might also be instructive because these are two of the creepiest X-Files episodes ever made, to me. Not in a "gah what a scary monster that was that just jumped out at me" kind of way, but in a "how messed up is it that within a dozen episodes of each other there are two story lines that hinge on a guy impregnating a whole bunch of women without their consent?" kind of way. It's strange that this didn't seem to register with the maybe wait a full season before you have another "women bearing children of people they didn't have consensual sex with" episode? At least in Small Potatoes he goes to jail. One of the recurring motifs of the show is that of powerful men interfering with Scully's reproductive agency, though, so I guess it shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. Still, eugh. I hope if the show were made today they would've thought this through more carefully.

This episode has many delights, though. David Duchovny does an AMAZING job playing Eddie Van Blundht masquerading as Mulder. Seriously didn't know he had the comedic range to pull it off. I love Mitch Pileggi's delivery of his one laugh line of the episode; Skinner so rarely gets a chance to say anything funny. I like the fact that Darin Morgan plays the son of a retired sideshow freak, a cute callback to Humbug. And my friends and I joked about buying one another Superstar Hats for years.

I don't know, I know this is a fan favorite. It's one of the funnier episodes of the series, don't get me wrong. But when I meet someone who says this is their favorite episode I feel a little let down, since it seems like such a "safe" choice and one that doesn't seem that well thought through. Funny and not too dark. Quirky but approachable. And yet, that weird shoved-aside fact that this guy did something SUPER rapey to a bunch of women and definitely did rape his high school girlfriend while masquerading as Luke Skywalker, and hid his dad's corpse in the attic, and is pretty much about to attempt sex with Scully under a false pretext when he's interrupted and arrested, and yet we're clearly meant to sympathize with this sadsack of an everyman and his life of occasional escapism?

Maybe it's more fun if you ship M/S and I never have? Without that, it's just...small potatoes. In my opinion.
posted by town of cats at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and! I feel I should note that this is the last episode for which there is an MotW strip to post, because Shaenon Garrity stopped making them at the end of season 4. If you'd like her to keep going, which I very much would because they are fucking delightful, she has a Patreon here you can give to.
posted by town of cats at 8:31 PM on October 25, 2015

This reminded me that I should up my monthly Patreon pledge to Garrity. So I did.
posted by jwgh at 6:44 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's weird that these were both comedic episodes too. It's weird that they would go for the "sympathetic loser rapist" thing at all, it's weird that they would do it twice (and in episodes so close together, as town of cats points out) and it's weird that both times it was supposed to be funny.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The superstar hat bit never gets old, I quote it (with Morgan's inflection) frequently, but yeah, the rape factor is glossed over too facilely.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2015

I keep getting this episode mixed up with the one with Bruce Campbell.

Yappi returns as a front page item in the tabloid.

Mulder gives an explanation on why the FBI were sent out, but what was the suspected crime (bigamy/ polygamy?) or was the FBI "just interested?"

afaik, as of the mid 2010's reproductive coercion doesn't seem to be a crime in the US, but it's an international crime. I guess he could be charged on fraud and impersonation, then sexual assault. Not that you can draw blood from a turnip, but the paternity suit would be interesting.

And then possibly murder and then certainly for fucking with the feebs.

Scully: "Birds, and the bees, and the baby monkey babies, Mulder."

Mulder contemplating whether other people's perceptions of us makes us (partially) what we are, in response to Scully's straightforward distinction between seeming and being, is cute. Gets explored further in that episode with Michael McKean.

I did like the pentruple axle plot progression.

Ok, not only does Scully not have a desk, her name isn't even on the office door?

Didn't this season get awarded for sound/ score? Another amazing score for this episode (of this season) - esp. non-Mulder figuring out how to Mulder.

I'm cool with Mulder's Porn gag, but the phone sex (with a scammy outfit) is surprising - unless he's using it as an outlet for his extraterrestrial kink or other non-standard uses of such services.

But Mulder busting into Scully's place to see Mulder with Scully was priceless.

Oooh. "But I'm not an Eddie Van Blundt, either."
posted by porpoise at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2020

Yes, ish, the raw results of PCR paternity tests look like that-ish, but wouldn't detect a "small part of chromosome 8" (depending on "small," that's a lethal and/ or terrible mutation) specifically. Having the results be on large format x-ray film is ... unusual, and terribly pretentious... and those don't look like ethidium bromide agar gels.

OMG!, did they re-use Scully's human fingerprint radiograph from s03e16?

Why, yes. Yes they did.

The radiograph on the far right - it's the same as the radiolabeled polyacrylamid gel that Scully got Pendrell Sean to do on Skinner's shooter. The one on the lightbox is blown out (lighter bands don't show up well) but those are the same.

Human vestigial tails - irl - don't tend to have any actual bones in them, and wouldn't have the specialized skeletal muscle for them to be prehensile. Typically, vestigial tails are associated with spina bifida and other neural developmental abnormalities.

The "striated muscle tissue" - everywhere! completely contradicts the nature of what is known of human vestigial tails. Maybe the tail is a consequence of the other massively interesting mutation.

Couldn't/ shouldn't explain hair, the same as it can't explain clothing.
posted by porpoise at 7:48 PM on May 30, 2020

There are so many hilarious moments in this episode -- despite the queasiness of the whole "rape by deception played for laughs" thing:

-- Mulder and Scully's reactions to Amanda's Luke Skywalker seduction story are a riot, especially Scully's. They must meet a lot of people who claim to have encountered the supernatural and are simply delusional and/or naive -- or who are both mentally ill and telling the truth. Hilariously, it's Amanda who first suggests that all the tailed babies might have the same father.
-- Baboo.
-- Mulder and Scully getting mistaken for yet another set of tailed baby parents.
-- "I haven't been with a man since 1989! ...I mean not counting you, honey."
-- Mulder's perfect little eye roll when Eddie tries to bolt.
-- The gag with Mulder breaking Eddie's father's corpse's tail, trying to hide that he has, and then it falling off after he leaves the room.
-- That ridiculous photo of Eddie that Eddie-as-Mulder shows Amanda.
-- The arrest of the guard (who is forced to drop his pants) and Dr. Pugh (who is forced to drop his towel) in the locker room.
-- That sad little lunch of Eddie's.
-- David Duchovny's physical impersonation of Eddie. He was just so clumsy, so inept, so uncomfortable in his own skin.
-- That "through the peephole" shot of Eddie-as-Mulder's too-eager grin was hysterical. David Duchovny does have a goofy-looking grin and that was the best possible use of it.

If I was giving birth and the doctor was making Indy 500 jokes, I'd kick him in the face.

The Eddie van Blundht "the 'h' is silent" running gag is a reference to David Duchovny's own name, with its silent h.

It says on the commentary for this episode that Eddie's pants were made loose on purpose, so that they could slip down for Mulder to see the tail removal scar, and Mulder could later pull them down to show everyone the scar after he tackles Eddie. But wardrobe made them too loose, and when they first did the scene in which Mulder tackles Eddie and pulls down his pants, they came down "a lot further" then they were supposed to. I doubt Darin Morgan enjoyed having the entire set see his ass, but I suppose that at least it was better than being in the Flukeman suit.

Scully planning to spend her Friday night on a monograph entitled "Diminished Acetylcholine Production in Recidivist Offenders", and then changing that plan to go to Quantico and have tissue samples run is peak Scully.

I'm not sure I buy that Mulder and Scully would bother to go visit Eddie in prison because he asked to see them. What could he have to say that would be so important?

I do love how pissy Mulder was about both Eddie putting the moves on Scully... and Scully being receptive to those moves. Cheer up, Mulder, at least Scully thinks you aren't a loser, and you'll get to kiss Scully eventually.

Mulder: I have a theory. Do you want to hear it?
Scully: Van Blundht somehow physically transformed into his captor then walked out the door leaving no one the wiser?
Mulder: Hey Scully, should we be picking out china patterns or what?

Skinner: You spelled Federal Bureau of Investigation wrong.
Eddie-as-Mulder: It was a typo.
Skinner: Twice.

posted by orange swan at 4:53 PM on May 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Absolutely, great facial acting for their response to the Luke Skywalker seduction story - trying to be professionally respectful but exasperated/ amused. Mulder walking away instead of letting it show on his face was respectful, but it left Scully with the bag.

During the original run, I was super tangled up about my physical unattractiveness when I should have been more bothered about my being a weirdo and my overcompensating with performative masculine toxicity.

Was a little surprised that Darin Morgan cast himself (?) in the role. Ballsy, good natured. Respect.

The "china patterns" is total fan service. I loved it. The "spelling FBI wrong" is probably an in-joke?

Their ID badge and business card props spell FBI wrong (federal crime to forge FBI documents, even for tv/ film).

The Scully being sympathetic to the Eddie Mulder - sure the outside is easy on the eyes and so forth, but it was Eddie being vulnerable and interested in Scully's thoughts and feelings that opened Scully up. I'm probably over-ascribing writer's intention, but that's not a great self-realization for real Mulder that maybe one is actually a bit of an asshole.

But yeah, getting pissed at someone using one's likeness to make moves with. That'll get the blood up.
posted by porpoise at 5:42 PM on May 31, 2020

How much fun must David Duchovny have been having when he was "Eddie van Bluhndt"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on June 1, 2020

Gah posted too soon and didn't read comments....

It says on the commentary for this episode that Eddie's pants were made loose on purpose, so that they could slip down for Mulder to see the tail removal scar, and Mulder could later pull them down to show everyone the scar after he tackles Eddie. But wardrobe made them too loose, and when they first did the scene in which Mulder tackles Eddie and pulls down his pants, they came down "a lot further" then they were supposed to.

I swear I've seen on one of the blooper reels that there was a take where they were doing the scene and right at the moment when Mulder pulls Eddie's pants down, Darin Morgan broke wind. Cue helpless laughter from everyone.

….There's also that conversation Mulder and Scully briefly have where he asks her "If you could be anyone else other than yourself, who would you be?" and she says she'd be Eleanor Roosevelt. Somehow that just says so much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on June 1, 2020

The Scully being sympathetic to the Eddie Mulder - sure the outside is easy on the eyes and so forth, but it was Eddie being vulnerable and interested in Scully's thoughts and feelings that opened Scully up.

Oooh, good insight. Mulder and Scully spend so much time together both in the office and on the road and in so many fraught situations, show a lot of care and respect for each other, and have saved each other's lives again and again. But their relationship is all about work. They never just talk and spend time getting to know each other and enjoying each other. It can be hard sometimes to understand why their relationship takes so many years to become romantic, but when one realizes that their sole focus is work, even if the work is intensive on so many levels, it makes total sense.
posted by orange swan at 7:49 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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