It’s that time of the season that most people look forward to – the Darin Morgan episode of The X-Files. Last season’s ‘Mulder & Scully Mee the Were-Monster’ got mixed reaction from the fans but this week’s ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ had plenty of humor and nods to the past to please almost everyone.
The set-up finds Mulder contacted by a man named Reggie … Something, and he’s here to tell Mulder that ‘they’ are erasing people’s minds — for what reason, who knows — but to prove his claim, he convinces Mulder that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone doesn’t exist. And he’s right. Mulder goes through his DVD collection, his companions books and even his old VHS recordings to no avail. So maybe this guy is on to something. Or maybe not. Scully thinks Mulder is crazy until she encounters Reggie as well and he presents her with a box of her favorite dessert from when she was a kid, that she’s not been able to find ever since and no one else remembers such a thing. Mulder begins to think this is all a result of the Mandela Effect, where people collectively believe something that never really happened (like Sinbad starring in a movie about a genie called ‘Shazam!’). But as Reggie begins to relate his story of fighting in the Granadan war and encountering an alien, Mulder starts to think perhaps an alternate universe has begun to merge with our universe. Or not.
Just when Mulder and Scully are about to give up on Reggie he reveals that he’d been with them at the birth of the X-Files and relates many stories to convince them. Here the episode got to be very clever by inserting Reggie into actual clips from episodes including ‘Tooms’, ‘Clyde Bruckner’s Final Repose’ (in which the Granadan war is mentioned) and the infamous ‘Home’. He also tells Mulder that a man by the name of Dr. Thaddeus They is the one responsible for erasing people’s minds. Again Mulder pooh-poohs this until Dr. They contacts him and makes matters even more confusing, but he’s certainly tapped into our current climate of how easily people believe fake news, and he is apparently the one creating it all. Or not.
‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ is a fun episode. It gives Duchovny and Anderson a chance to lighten up (and in some spots for Duchovny to ham it up) while delivering some funny dialog in their usual deadpan tone of voice, such as when Scully tells Mulder about that dessert she liked but not the lemon lime flavor because it tasted like ‘leprechaun taint.’ There was also a nice recreation of what could have been a Twilight Zone episode (specifically ‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?’ mixed with a bit of ‘The Howling Man’) but in the end turns out to be a misremembered episode from a show called ‘The Dusky Realm’. There’s also an alien who converses telepathically (like the alien from the Twilight Zone episode ‘To Serve Man’) and who gets about on a hoverboard that sounds like George Jetson’s flying car. There are a ton of references in this episode, and I could probably find more on a second viewing.
Of course Reggie turns out to be an escapee from a mental hospital, the Spotnitz Sanitarium, named for former executive producer Frank Spotnitz (and two guys in white with a butterfly net and straight-jacket show up to bring him back) and all seems right again with the world. That is until Skinner shows up and asks incredulously, ‘Where are they taking Reggie?!’ As this is most likely the last season ever of The X-Files and probably the last ever episode written by Darin Morgan, it was a load of fun before we get back to the more dramatic, mythology stuff next week.
The X-Files airs Wednesdays at 8:00 PM on FOX.
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