Season 3, Episode 20
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Darin Morgan
I thought about starting this piece off by writing something (admittedly pretentious) like “Memory is a fluid and elusive thing.” Then, I thought better of it given The X-Files episode I was writing about – “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” an excellent oddity that quickly ranks as one of my very favorite episodes of the entire series. A comic take on the overall series mythology story line, “Chung” parodies and yet idolizes all the hallmarks of the series: Scully’s persistent skepticism, Mulder’s unwavering belief, government conspiracies, and aliens. Yes, lots of aliens. It’s a brilliant episode – one that is so great that even non-fans of the series should watch it just to absorb the brilliant writing used here.
The episode revolves around two teenagers – Chrissy and Harold – who may or may not have been double abducted by aliens. Sounds strange, I know, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg here. The prologue shows the typical alien abduction setup: the two teens are riding down a dark country road when their car suddenly dies. A bright light appears from the sky, and two classic aliens (grey skin, skinny body, massive head and eyes) appear from nowhere. The teens seem to pass out but remain slightly conscious as the aliens drag them from their car. Then, and this is where it gets weird, a second alien appears, beamed down from a second spaceship, and seems to bark orders at the other two confused aliens – one of whom refers to the other as “Jack.” The rest of the episode is framed by Jose Chung’s (Charles Nelson Reilly, shockingly good) attempts to whip diverging and contradictory versions of this story and its aftermath into “a non-fiction science fiction novel.” The parade of characters that follows illustrate something of a kitchen sink approach to writing. Everyone has a quirk. Everyone has a version of the story. Nothing makes sense. And it’s fantastic. That’s all I’m going to say about the basic plot. It’s too good to spoil.
The brilliance of the episode lies within is exploration of eccentricities and what ultimately appears to be another government conspiracy. Yet, rather than make another routine government story line, the writer of “Jose Chung” chose to tell it with a sense of humor of which there is an abundance on display. The local sheriff who curses freely but is re-told using words like “blippity” and “blinging.” Aliens who smoke and speak English. Alien autopsy videos. The abductee wannabee who eerily resembles Buster from Arrested Development. Mulder’s love of sweet potato pie. The “men in black” played by Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek. The frequent references to classic sci-fi like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Communion. The script is so ripe with science fiction love and a playful attitude that it’s impossible not to love it.
And that’s all I’m going to say about “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” If you’re following my series, then you’re likely already a fan of The X-Files and know what I’m talking about. But if by some miracle you’ve never seen this episode, then please stop reading this right now, log into Netflix, and watch it. Hell, even if you’ve seen it before, watch it again. It’s a fantastic hour of television, and the perfect example of the brilliance that occasionally touches The X-Files.
The only danger in producing an episode like this is that viewers may never look at The X-Files the same way again.