Arcadia

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Arkin

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer J. Chen   ON: March 7, 1999

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 7, 1999


"So how was your first night? Peaceful?"
"Oh, it was wonderful. We just spooned up and fell asleep like little baby cats. Isn't that right, Honeybunch?"
"That's right, Poopyhead."

Mulder was at his flirty best, and Scully was...not. The best parts of the episode was when they were acting like a married couple...the whole garbage monster thing (fine, fine, "tulpa" thing) was rather lame. It was almost as if the real point of the episode was to showcase the pretend marriage (which was why the case was so ho-hum), but they didn't go as far with that as they could have. We didn't see much of Mulder and Scully alone, which would have been great...although, what is with Season Six Scully being the Ice Queen? Season One Scully would have been more receptive to Mulder's blatant teasing, and gave back as good as she got. Season Six Scully seems to have no sense of humor, or very little.

As always, when I feel particularly disillusioned about what the writers/actors are doing regarding Shippy moments, I turn to The X-Files Institution for Relationshippers and go to the "Romantic Moment of the Week Clinic," because Kelly Youse always manages to find the shippiness in almost every episode. So having had some therapy in regard to Arcadia, I feel that I can proceed with my thoughts with a better overall feeling.

Maybe I was expecting too much and that's why I was a little disappointed with the Shipper moments in this episode; I was thinking of what could have been. Normally I treat every episode like a blank slate--as in, any Shipper moments is not expected or hoped for, so anything that happens is a bonus. I mean, we're talking about a series in which the creator has on more than one occasion stated in no uncertain terms that the two main characters are not going to get together the way we want them to. But I've gotten spoiled, because there are tons and tons of Shipper moments throughout six seasons of the show. And the very premise of Arcadia, with Mulder and Scully posing as a married couple, led me to hope, and yes, assume, that there would be many Shipper moments. So the actual episode in that respect was a little disappointing. But after my "therapy session," I can appreciate better the moments that did occur, and I'll share them with you, in case you're in the same boat that I was in.

I have never seen The Dick Van Dyke Show, but my "therapist" pointed out that "Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore play possibly the most loving and in love married couple in sitcom history" so the fact that Mulder would choose the names of the married couple on that show--Rob and Laura--as his and Scully's aliases may have a deeper significance (or at least, that's what his therapist would say). However, that would in part be spoiled by Scully's remark, "Next time we go undercover, I get to choose the names," indicating that she was not happy with his choice. Make no mistake--I have no beef with Mulder's behavior throughout this episode; it's Scully's that I was--at first--exasperated with.

There are, however, a ton of excuses I could make for her. First of all, just because they're on this case doesn't mean that the episodes before it haven't happened or the emotion that was initiated earlier doesn't continue on to their current work. Mulder specifically points out that this is their first official X-File after getting it back (I guess Agua Mala didn't count since Mulder was just doing a favor for Dales, and Monday doesn't count for obvious reasons--it was an X-File for us but not for them), which means that it is probably not too soon after her tense confrontation with Mulder about Diana Fowley. So in fact, Mulder's light-hearted teasing would almost be an insult, and Scully was just not in the frame of mind to play such meaningless games with him after his recent actions. Secondly, Scully's feelings about Mulder can be in no doubt if past episodes are anything to go by--and she has always expressed them willingly and best in times of crisis or serious situations. Perhaps, to Scully (who has always been the more serious half), her feelings for Mulder and their relationship is something too important to her to joke around about. Or a better explanation, that if and when they are going to be publicly or otherwise affectionate, that it will be real. Scully is a strong person, but Mulder is the most important thing in her life, and she may not be able to take him acting so affectionate toward her if he doesn't really mean it, if he's just playing around like his Mulder-jokester self. Her apparent unwillingness to participate in the charade whole-heartedly is undoubtedly a defense mechanism of sorts--the recent Fowley thing and Scully's insecurity about Mulder resulting from it is enough to make her cold and distanced, not wanting to be hurt--especially since no one has the power to hurt her as much as Mulder can.

That being said, along with our recent One Son knowledge, we can enjoy Arcadia in watching Scully get into being "Laura" in spite of her reservations. At the very beginning, Mulder introduces her as "my lovely wife Laura" with a beaming smile as Scully gives a forced smile. Once in the house, Mulder keeps the innuendos coming while Scully tries to keep the situation strictly professional. Though she tries to stay distanced, there is no doubting his sincere affection for her, and her years of familiarity with him stops her from getting irked at his playfulness, even though she doesn't want to play along. If Scully had truly wanted to remain professional and insert her equality in this partnership that he was not taking seriously, and if Mulder were anyone else, she would have reamed him for "Woman, get back in here and make me a sandwich!" Instead, she throws her latex gloves in his face, both with exasperation and reluctant amusement. She neither castigates him nor comes back with a cutting remark. In fact--Scully has perfected the true "wifely" form--when her husband says something that isn't worth her attention, she simply ignores it. But is that a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth?

In public, Mulder can't wait to plaster himself to Scully's side--if he held her any closer or tighter she was liable to be suffocated to death. Scully doesn't seem to enjoy these for-the-sake-of-appearances gestures (she is a woman, after all, and if she believes that Mulder is just hamming it up and doesn't mean any of it, she can't wait to get away from the fakeness of it), however, Mulder seems to be enjoying and taking advantage of every opportunity to publicly and constantly be able to touch her and hold her (even if part of him is only doing it just to rile her and she has to take it or blow their cover, which, professional that she is, she would never do) and Scully can't do anything but allow him to keep on doing it.

Notice that when Scully believes that a prowler is in the house and she's armed with a poker, she doesn't even come close to hitting Mulder. She barely even swings it--she recognizes him in plenty of time. Her deeper concern and affection for him seeps out in her apology (a serious moment), and her "Someone was in the house," strikes a very domestic and intimate tone--she is speaking of their home.

When they go to see the president of their Homeowners Association to ask Gogolak if Mulder can put up his basketball hoop, no two human beings could have sat closer on a couch than Mulder and Scully did. Either their perceptions of marriage are extremely idealistic, or they were enjoying this opportunity too much to care. Even Scully lets down her guard and just enjoys having Mulder's arm around her; she pats his hand, sometimes holding it, but these are unconsious gestures, which are, of course, more telling than if they were deliberate actions. The reason I know they are unconcious is because twice Scully looks down at her hand over his for a few moments, as if she is wondering how in the world that happened, before hastily pulling her hand away--like she's giving away too much. It made me wonder what they would be like if they really were a married couple--would Scully have supported Mulder's wishes for a basketball hoop? Of course she would. I suspect that as a true married couple, they would put up with all of the little quirks that they know and love about each other--much as they do in their partnership.

Scully becomes the "typical wife" again when we hear her berating Mulder about his bathroom habits, when she gives him the evil eye for tossing his laundry aside, and when we see her in her green mask and bathrobe. What exactly are the writers trying to imply when they perpetuate such a stereotype? Scully is a sexy, kick-ass FBI agent, but when she's a wife, even in pretend, she is shown to do all the things that a wife who doesn't care about appearances anymore does? Right before she comes out, she makes some sounds indicating, not on purpose, that she is about to make a reappearance. Mulder quickly puts down whatever he is studying and throws himself on the bed to prepare for her imminent arrival. When she shows her face, as it were, Mulder gives a startled shriek of disgust, but it's obviously faked and expected of him--their connection is such that it goes way beyond the physical. She is always enchanting and beautiful to him; she is always Scully. Mulder's flirtatious suggestion that she sleep next to him in the bed (he obviously wasn't very repulsed by her appearance), because they're "married now" hits a little too close to Scully's deeper yearnings (at least, that's the excuse I'm making for her), and to protect herself, she brushes him off and basically tells him to take a hike.

Scully barely even argues with him when he gives his theory about a garbage-monster (he never mentions a "tulpa" to her).

Lastly, we even have a Mulder-angst scene when he drags the newly arrested Mr. Gogolak back to his and Scully's house, and sees the door open. The look on his face is perhaps one that only Shippers and other X-Philes can appreciate--nothing is on his mind at that moment but Scully's safety, and his cautious walk following the "bloody" tracks is indicative of his fear of what he will discover has happened to his Scully. His relief at finding her safe is palpable (and he soon ditches her, of course, seeing that she is unharmed)--it is much like witnessing the reunion of two lovers long separated by a tragedy or something.

In short, this episode contains some much-needed Mulder-love and entertaining flirtation, and theorizing on Scully's less-than-enthusiastic response makes us not only feel better about it, but perhaps makes us even more appreciative of Gillian Anderson's acting abilities, that she can carry the psyche and emotions of her character from one episode to the next, depending on what has happened previously. That is not to impune David Duchovny's acting abilities, which are also impressive--being a man, he in no way presents anything unbelievable from what last happened in One Son to Arcadia. It is very likely that he is able to move on and forget about it more quickly than Scully, who had been the one betrayed and would hold it to herself longer.

"I mean, she's into those magnetic bracelets and crystals and mood rings, what have you. I mean, God bless her, she's a sucker for all that stuff."




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1999 by Jennifer J. Chen