X-Files episode 1107 - Mulder and Scully having sushi

The X-Files: Mulder and Scully face off against cell phones, drones... and a vibrator

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Feb 28, 2018

SPOILER ALERT! This recap contains full-blown spoilers for The X-Files episode 1107 -- "Rm9sbG93ZXJz."

I loved this episode. It may be my favorite episode of the season (well, tied with "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat"), and one of my favorites in the entire run of the show. If anyone ever doubted the chemistry between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, you won't after this episode. It is well crafted, with virtually no dialogue whatsoever.

The conceit is explained in the cold open, with a brief history of the Microsoft AI Twitter bot that was developed to learn from humans, only to be taught to be racist, sexist, and generally full of hate. This is a warning, and perhaps the inspiration for this episode. When Mulder doesn't give the robots the same consideration he would give a human being, they turn on him -- and Scully. It's not a complex conceit, nor is it hidden. It is so brilliantly executed, with so many great moments, that it is easy to overlook the obvious: that the machines are revolting because Mulder didn't tip.

We open with Mulder and Scully on a dinner date at a sushi restaurant. No suits, no files -- this is 100% leisure time (she finally gets her dinner date!). They are the only people there. No other customers; no employees. Everything is automated. They order their meals off a screen, then check out their phones while they wait. Scully ignores a friend request from the restaurant. Their food arrives. Scully's is picture-perfect; Mulder's is a blob fish. She mocks him with her delicious sushi while Mulder tries to find a human to complain to. The kitchen is fully staffed by robots, who all freeze when Mulder enters. They seem to be staring at him. He backs out and returns to the table.

X-Files episode 1107 - Mulder and Scully outside sushi restaurant

Shane Harvey/FOX

Mulder insists on paying, and declines to leave a tip. The machines don't take kindly to this and won't give Mulder his credit card back. The machine doesn't like it when Mulder hits it, and the lights turn off, and the doors lock. Dinner is over. Scully has to pry open the door to get out; Mulder is forced to leave his credit card behind in the machine. Scully's pre-ordered rideshare arrives and she is concerned because there is no driver, but the door closes on her before she can change her mind.

Neither agent has a good ride home. (This is what happens when you don't carpool!) Scully's automated rideshare is annoyed when she doesn't want to listen to music or watch TV. It starts speeding, faster and faster, and won't stop no matter how much she yells at the computer. The car finally stops and asks for a rating; Scully declines and gets the hell out of Christine. She has to walk the rest of the way home.

Meanwhile, Mulder's car won't play his requested music ("Teach Your Children" instead of "Controversy" by Prince) and it gives Mulder a "faster" route home. It actually just leads Mulder back to the restaurant. Another pop up on his phone requests a tip; he declines. Mulder goes "old skool" and uses a paper map book to get home.

Mulder goes back to his ol' unremarkable house, where he tries to contact his credit card company (another dig at Trump: Bigly Credit). He is stuck in automated response hell. He sits down to watch The Six Million Dollar Man, but the TV switches to a live surveillance image of Mulder. He peeks out the window and sees a drone watching him. He confronts the drone, thinking it is some dumb kid. Back inside, he sees the drone return, so this time he goes after it with a baseball bat. He finally nails it and marches back home proudly. He does stop to watch another drone come out, then use a claw to pick up its fallen brethren.

X-Files episode 1107 - Mulder and Scully running with flashlights

I think this is the first time we see Scully's house since she moved out of the unremarkable house with Mulder. It is beautiful, modern, luxurious, and everything is automated. The first problem she faces is with the alarm panel. It won't accept her passcode (0223 - her birthday. It is cute, but there is no way Scully would ever choose something so easy) so someone calls and she gives the verbal password: Queequeg. (I love this -- but for the love of all that is cute and fluffy, what happened to Dagoo??) Anyway, she gets ready for bed and notices she is out of hair cream. Almost immediately, a text message asks her if she wants more. She is freaked out and draws her robe tighter around her. Then she knocks over a jar of bath salts. She gets dressed and hears a buzzing outside. A drone has delivered a package: one of those robot vacuums. She didn't order it, but it is quite useful now. She sets it up and watches with amusement as it cleans the house.

The vacuum sweeps up the bath salts, then continues looking for more filth. A text asks Scully to rate the vacuum; she ignores it. The vacuum is sweeping under her bed and finds a little pink vibrator. She smiles and picks it up, then gets another text, alerting her that her "personal massager" now comes in bold new colors. She again declines, and the vacuum hits her foot, as if to chastise her. She pockets the vibrator and texts Mulder to see if he sent her the vacuum. The text doesn't go through. The vacuum seems to have attitude with Scully, so she boxes it up and puts it by the door.

Mulder, still on hold with Bigly Credit, is far less amused. He eats sunflower seeds; he snips his nose hair; he eats an entire box of generic Pop Tarts, all while trying to log on to the Bigly Credit website. Another text requests a tip; he declines. Finally he gets into his account, but the screen closes and he gets a suspicious pop up: "What do you want to believe, Fox? Do you believe what you want, or do you believe what is true?" This is clearly a reference to his "I Want to Believe" poster, which is his computer desktop. Alarmed, Mulder slams his laptop shut.

Back at Casa de Scully, she is trying to return the robo-vac, and is on hold. Her hold music is "Teach Your Children" -- the same music Mulder had -- but she chooses to enjoy it, and transfers it to her home entertainment system. The music starts to blast, so she goes to turn it down. No luck. It hides the sound of the rumble in the box, so she doesn't notice when her robo-vac gets loose until it bumps into a table and knocks over a vase. She takes the vacuum out to the garbage when she sees the rideshare car has returned, and is waiting patiently in her driveway. I know Scully has dealt with a lot of weird stuff, but this would freak me the hell out. She declines a text to rate her ride and goes inside.

X-Files episode 1107 - Mulder protects Scully

​​​​​​Things aren't better inside. The coffee machine is brewing to overflowing, and her fridge attacks her with ice cubes. She again tries to shut the system down. She gets the music off, but it also shuts off the lights and then starts the fireplace. The TV gets scrambly; she can't get into her security account; the alarm goes off.

Mulder decides it is time to leave the house when a hundred little drones invade his home. He moves slowly, trying not to startle the drones, but when he grabs his coat, they all chase him out to his car. He speeds away, leaving the little lights twinkling in his yard. Again, the restaurant asks him for a tip. Again, he declines.

Mulder arrives at Scully's house, but she can't open the doors. And she smells gas. While she grabs a fireplace poker, Mulder wonders why her house is so much nicer than his (a topic I could go off on for an hour, but for now, I will just say... how has he never seen her house before??). Scully breaks through the glass door as the vacuum sparks, sending the agents running from a fireball that blows out the living room.

The two run for the car. Neither can get through to 911; Mulder's electronic key won't work. They go to the neighbor's house to use the phone, but no one is home. The drones have found them, hundreds of them, and the agents take off on foot, racing into a warehouse district. Scully gets a text, warning her that she will never make it to her office. She whispers to Mulder "they are tracking us on our phones... they know everything." Mulder encourages her to dump anything that can track them. They dump their phones, Mulder dumps his keys, Scully dumps her step tracker... and the vibrator that is still in her pocket. Mulder looks... I don't know... shocked? Concerned? Jealous? Scully just shakes her head -- now is not the time. The drones are back, and so is the rideshare. They run, and duck inside a warehouse. A drone picks up Mulder's phone.

X-Files episode 1107 - Robot

Shane Harvey/FOX

Inside the warehouse, little dog-like robots are tracking them. They duck into an office, only to discover there is a 3D printer in the room that prints -- and shoots -- bullets. When the machine goes to reload, Mulder smashes it. But there is still a robot outside the door that is itching to get in. It succeeds in breaking open the door and rolls in. Mulder and Scully watch it suspiciously. The robot holds out Mulder's phone. He takes it cautiously, and another text comes through, asking one last time if he would like to leave a tip. A timer counts down. Mulder waits until it gets to one before he -- grudgingly -- hits the 10% button. The robot smiles, and Mulder gets a text thanking him, saying, "We learn from you." "We have to learn to be better teachers," Mulder mutters. The agents leave the warehouse without incident.

Mulder and Scully head to a diner for breakfast. Scully doesn't even make an attempt to pay; Mulder pays with cash. She pins on her step counter, and Mulder is glad to see she got all her "personal devices back." With a slight smile, Scully assures him, "Not all of them." Mulder looks pleased -- but tries to hide it. They both pick up their phones, but a text message sound makes Scully put hers down. She takes Mulder's hand. He smiles, puts his phone down, and squeezes her hand tighter.

Random Thoughts:

  • I appreciate the fact that Scully isn't the least bit embarrassed by her vibrator -- sorry, her personal massager. Just another example of Scully's fearlessness. Maybe it will have the Scully Effect on sex toys? The ending, where Scully assures Mulder she didn't get all her devices back, then they hold hands... I know that is going to make 'shippers go nuts. It made me go nuts. I could hear a zillion fanfics born. That moment was far more intimate than anything in "Plus One," where they actually have sex. And now that Scully's house is burned out, she is going to need a new place to stay...
  • A few hours before I watched this episode, I happened to watch "Ghost in the Machine" from Season 1. Talk about a culture shock. It is so bizarre to see how far technology has come in 25 years. In "Ghost" there is a line that Scully says about AI technology being decades away from what Mulder theorizes is going on. Here we are, two and a half decades later, and it is terrifying.
  • I love that, in the warehouse, suddenly the two have flashlights. It is a throwback to the ol' flashlight-wielding dynamic duo. I don't know where they got them, but I like to believe they carry them on them always, just in case.
  • Fun fact: the title of this episode, "Rm9sbG93ZXJz," is Base64 code for "Followers." The tagline at the end of the credits is another string of alphanumerics: "VGhlIFRydXRoIGlzIE91dCBUaGVyZQ=" This translates to "The Truth is Out There."