X-Files Flashback: ‘Field Trip’

Field Trip

Season 6, Episode 21
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: John Shiban, Vince Gilligan

One thing I discovered today is that, when you’re sick (and I’m really, really sick), watching The X-Files can be an excruciating experience. I don’t blame “Field Trip.” It’s actually a really interesting episode that, seen outside of pain googles, will likely rank as one of my favorite in Season Six and maybe in the Top 20 of the series overall. I fully thank Vince Gilligan for that. No, personally not feeling well tends to amplify the on-screen experiences. And when the episode is one giant hallucination? Forget about it.

So, as I write this in the only position that feels good, you’ll have to forgive me for such a brief article. I literally don’t have it in me, but I’m not going to let illness break my “201 Days of The X-Files” streak. Screw you, body.

“Field Trip” starts with a newlywed couple returning from a hike in the woods near Brown Mountain, North Carolina. The young wife has a headache and hallucinates being covered with a yellow, snot-like substance. Later, she and her husband lay in bed together, cuddled. The next scene shows their skeletons in the exact same position. Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate and discover the same gooey substance on the back of one of the skeletons. After a bit of a spat, Mulder breaks off from Scully and investigates the area in which the skeletons were found on his own. He quickly sees the newlywed husband running through a rock formation. When Mulder follows him into a cave, the husband begins to describe an alien abduction experience. Shortly thereafter, brilliant white lights deposit the man’s wife, and she describes an experience similar to Scully’s earlier abduction. Mulder, himself, is then abducted by aliens and returns to his apartment with the couple and an alien visitor in tow. Scully joins him there and cries at the proof she sought for alien life.

Meanwhile, Scully arrives on location back in North Carolina and looks for Mulder but cannot find him. Later, she finds his skeleton and returns to Washington, DC, to attend his wake. When Mulder shows up at his own wake, she begins to suspect some sort of plant life that has induced hallucinations since neither of them can remember how they got to Mulder’s apartment. They rouse themselves out of the dream sequence and are freed from the ground. Still, Mulder feels something isn’t quite right. Turns out, even thought they’ve successfully wrapped the case, they’re still hallucinating and are in the clutches of the mysterious fungus that is keeping them sedated long enough for it to dissolve their body and consume it. Mulder realizes they’re still dreaming and manages to stick his hand out of the ground where A.D. Skinner and team are there to rescue them. This time, for real.

One of the more interesting aspects of the episode to me is the brief spat between Mulder and Scully at the beginning. Mulder has an alien-based theory about the sudden appearance of the skeletons, and Scully once more quickly poo-poos that. Miffed, Mulder accuses her of never listening to him and ignoring the fact that his crazy theories usually pan out. It’s an interesting moment between the two characters as Mulder is completely on-point. Scully’s dogged need for scientific evidence has proven time and time again to slow them down. She is usually the one to come around, not Mulder, so the outburst is warranted and a bit of a vindication for Mulder. The rest of the episode is expertly rendered with the multiple layers of reality becoming increasingly maddening and confusing – something of an X-Files variant on the Alice in Wonderland fable. It’s fun when an episode keeps you on your toes as much as “Field Trip” does.

If only I felt good enough to fully appreciate it…

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