Season 9, Episode 11
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Steven Maeda
“Audrey Pauley” is a nice example of a supernatural-tinged Monica Reyes episode. The focus here isn’t on a particular X-file or an alien abduction. Instead, it tries to restore the buzzy heat between leads first experienced by Mulder and Scully between Doggett and Reyes. Unfortunately, the bland Agent John Doggett is a poor substitute for former agent Fox Mulder. That aside, the remainder of the episode is pleasantly unfussy. It succeeds by not trying too hard, and that, sometimes, can make all the difference.
The episode begins with Agent Reyes taking Doggett home. There is a brief, meet-cute moment where they discuss Doggett’s love of cats. It’s their lack of attachment that attracts him, but Reyes swears he’s really a dog person at heart. Clearly, she’s barking up the wrong tree (ha) as she waits for a kiss, but Doggett refuses to bite (ha). After she drives away, she is struck by a drunk driver. Initially unharmed, she later falls into a coma at the hospital. While in the coma, she is transported to a version of the hospital that contains only two other people. Did I mention this hospital appears to be floating in a space-like atmosphere?
In the real world, Doggett clings to the hope that Reyes will pull through, but doctors (including Scully) believe her to be brain dead. Doggett does find evidence of brain activity, but what he doesn’t realize is that the attending physician has injected her with something that puts her into the coma state. He’s done that with two other patients – the two other men located in the floating hospital with Reyes. Reyes does spot one other woman (Audrey Pauley), but she runs away in fear. The same woman visit Reyes’s body in the real world – she’s a simple-minded woman who delivers flowers in the hospital. However, she can move between two worlds and has communication with the undead souls. To prove Reyes’s responsiveness, Audrey carries messages back and forth between Doggett and the unconscious Reyes.
Just before the doctor pulls the plug on Reyes, Audrey is murdered by the doctor for fear that she will blow his cover to Doggett. When she dies, she visits her floating hospital one last time and tells Reyes to plunge into the void below. Audrey then disappears, having died in real life. Reyes, however, returns to consciousness. Later, Doggett takes her home, and, even after the extensive near-death trauma, he is still unable to express any emotions for her. Even after weeping by her bed as he lay dying.
“Audrey Pauley” is a very fine, decent episode that stays comfortably within the confines of what Season Nine can offer. It’s not fancy or extravagant, despite some fairly decent special effects. It doesn’t reach too far to construct an elaborate conspiracy or mythology. Instead, it’s as simple a story as the title character is a person. Do I want to know more about Audrey Pauley? Not really. The episode and the actor (Tracey Ellis) told me all I needed to know about the woman. As I mentioned before, the only place the episode falters is in the foolhardy attempt to romantically connect Reyes and Doggett. Annabeth Gish seems game, but it’s not within Robert Patrick’s stable of acting tricks to convey an appropriate romantic lead. And that’s absolutely fine. He doesn’t need to be.
Perhaps this even works out for the best if you think about it. Maybe Monica Reyes’ story will be written as one of unrequited love. It’s a far more daring place to visit than caving to fan fiction and having Mulder and Scully finally get together. The exterior of the episode (the Doggett/Reyes connection) cleverly mirrors the interior (Reyes, alone, in the purgatory hospital). Thinking about “Audrey Pauley” in this manner leaves something of a sad aftertaste. Reyes, all upbeat and new-age, is deep inside a profoundly sad and lonely woman, looking for love in John Doggett.
That may be the saddest thing I’ve seen on the series to date.