Like Tea Leoni's Ever Gonna Have a Crush on Mulder
"Hollywood A.D." Plot Summary:
Onscreen in letterbox format, Fox Mulder (Garry Shandling) fights off zombies while Dana Scully (Tea Leoni) is held hostage by a cigarette-smoking pontiff who controls the zombies via the Lazarus Bowl, which can raise the dead. Mulder has the bowl and threatens to smash it, sending the zombies back where the sun don't shine. But the pontiff does not believe Mulder would sacrifice proof positive of the paranormal even to save his partner. Mulder tosses the bowl in the air, rescues Scully, and falls into a coffin with her. "Is that your flashlight, Mulder, or are you just happy to be lying on top of me?" she coos. "My flashlight...oh, that!" Mulder replies in some confusion. He tells her he loves her, and she kisses him passionately. Watching in the audience at the Darryl Zanuck Theatre, Shandling, Leoni, and the real Scully smile. Mulder groans. Skinner smirks at Mulder.
18 months earlier, Skinner's college pal Wayne Federman - a movie director/producer - sits in on a conference as the assistant director and the two agents discuss a pipe bomb that wrecked the crypt of a local church. Cardinal O'Fallon is considered a likely candidate to be the first American pope, Scully says while Federman contemplates possible typecasting for the priest and the agents. Federman, who is working on a movie about the Bureau, appreciates Mulder's "Star Trekky" approach to investigation, and wants to follow him to the church while Scully stays behind to help Skinner with paperwork. Mulder asks Skinner if he somehow pissed his boss off more than usual.
At Christ's Church, Mulder queries the cardinal about the contents of the ruined church crypt, and learns that it contained old bones, spiritual documents, and the bathrobe of St. Peter. "You're kidding," Federman says. "Yes, I am," agrees the deadpan priest. Mulder suspects terrorism until they hear a cell phone and find a corpse Mulder identifies as Micah Hoffman - one of his heroes. He was the first Yippie, a better poet than Ginsberg, and a college shortstop to boot. Mulder breaks into the man's home without a warrant, where Scully realizes Hoffman was building bombs and forging documents. They find a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, an account of Christ's life on earth after the Resurrection. Federman says the agents remind him of studio execs with guns.
Back at the crypt, Mulder finds another copy of the same Gospel of Mary. While he investigates, Federman goes to take a call and sees the bones of a skeleton trying to put themselves back together, right near a piece of broken pottery. Later Scully tells him that his mind must have been playing tricks on him, but Federman insists that the bones were mechanical or CGI - not hallucination. Federman believes Mulder is crazy for believing what he believes, and Scully is crazy for not believing what he believes. Once the producer goes, Scully says the producer's story reminds her of the myth of the Lazarus Bowl - when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, his aunt was spinning a clay bowl which supposedly engraved Christ's voice into the pattern, and the object still has the power to raise the dead. Mulder says it's a cool story and sends Scully to have the pottery examined, which she does, by one Chuck Burns, who says his machine can pick up and separate residual sound - even Mulder's porn tapes on pause. He hears choirs of angels in the pottery.
Meanwhile, Mulder has the cardinal translate the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which concerns Jesus embracing Mary as a man to a woman. The cardinal admits he bought the forgeries in the crypt from Hoffman, believing they were real and wanting to protect people from the disruptive documents. He couldn't bear to destroy the antique, but he hid it in the crypt. Later Mulder tells his partner that he suspects Hoffman was dead at O'Fallon's hands before the bomb blew up in the crypt. He wants Scully to autopsy Hoffman, but can't discuss it at that moment because Federman calls to ask who Mulder sees playing himself in the movie. Mulder says Richard Gere. Federman laughs that they have Garry Shandling in mind, and reveals that Walter Skinner will be played by Richard Gere.
Scully autopsies Hoffman, who sits up and talks to her after his heart is removed. When she panicks and cuts herself with the scalpel she used on the corpse, it returns to its inert state. When Mulder arrives, Scully says she found traces of poison in Hoffman's bloodstream. "Man oh Manischevitz," says Mulder, suspecting the Communion wine was poisoned by O'Fallon. After they get a warrant for the cardinal's arrest, the agents go to the church, where Scully sees the image of Hoffman hanging from a large crucifix. As Mulder starts to read O'Fallon his rights, Hoffman walks into the church, perfectly healthy. Skinner screams at both agents for botching the case, telling them to leave O'Fallon and Hoffman alone, plus putting them on a forced four-week leave.
Burns informs the agents that he has found word-sounds in the pottery that a linguist identified as Aramaic. The first part says, "I am the walrus, Paul is dead," or the ancient equivalent, but the second part appears to be one man commanding another to rise from the dead. When Mulder and Scully visit Hoffman, he confirms, "I am become Jesus Christ," but Mulder retorts, "I am become skeptical." The '60s legend says he blew up his own forgeries when he realized they were blasphemous. That night, Mulder watches the godawful Plan 9 From Outer Space, trying to clear his head. Scully drops by to ask whether Mulder thinks it possible that Hoffman is Christ. "Crazy people can be very persuasive," he replies.
The pair are distracted by the movie, with aliens heading for the San Fernando Valley. Since they have four weeks' leave, Mulder and Scully decide to go to Los Angeles to see the FBI movie being filmed. When they arrive, Shandling scrutinizes Mulder's crotch and asks which way he dresses, while Leoni begs Scully to teach her to run in those high heels. Later, Mulder calls Scully from his bubble bath to hers, though both pretend to be working. He tells her his theory that after zombies try to eat people, they want to dance and make love and do all the things they miss from being alive.
Skinner interrupts on call waiting, also in a bubble bath, to reveal that he's in the hotel room beneath Mulder's and he's sorry he came down so hard about the Hoffman-O'Fallon case. Mulder tries to switch lines to tell Scully that "Skin-man" is calling him from a bubble bath, but the call waiting doesn't switch over so Skinner hears the report. After the assistant director-turned-producer hangs up, Scully tells Mulder she thinks Leoni has a crush on him, which he ridicules. Then she says she thinks Shandling's interested in him too. "Really?" Mulder asks.
Sixteen months later, back at the theater, Leoni-as-Scully suddenly pushes Shandling-as-Mulder away. "I'm in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner," she protests, Mulder gets up and walks out of the theater. Skinner starts to grin at Scully, but is interrupted by a long-haired bimbo smooching him. Scully finds Mulder sitting on the graveyard set, where she reports that O'Fallon killed Hoffman, then himself. Mulder regrets that the complicated Cardinal is going to be remembered as the Cigarette-Smoking Pontiff, and although he's reconciled to his own stupid image in the movie, he hates the idea of dead people who can't defend themselves being ridiculed on-screen. Scully says the dead are beyond what people care, and leads him away to have some fun using the Bureau credit card Skinner gave her for the night. "I'm in love with Associate Producer Walter Skinner," she confesses. "Me too," says Mulder, laughing as he sticks his plastic "Lazarus bowl" containing popcorn on top of a fake statue in the fake movie set graveyard.
Once the agents leave, music begins to play. The dead begin to rise in the graveyard. Though their faces are decayed and their clothes are rotting off, they dance. The camera moves to reveal hundreds of dancing zombies, enjoying life.
Like Duchovny's last outing, "The Unnatural," "Hollywood A.D." manages somehow to be equal parts parody and tribute to The X-Files, with some unexpectedly moving twists in the midst of cynical laughter. It's an absolutely brilliant episode, though I am sure there will be some people who hate it - Skinner fans in particular, since the A.D. comes across as a pompous ass, as well as people who can't handle any 'shipper teasing. This was very much an episode for the fans, and by that I don't mean just people who watch the series pretty regularly. I mean this is an episode for people who know not only that Tea Leoni is Duchovny's wife, and that Duchovny once pretended to have a crush on Garry Shandling on his show, but for people who know about the rival M/S and S/Sk relationship fan fiction web rings, and who have read several dozen variations on the "Is that a flashlight in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" joke.
Before Duchovny gets accused of nepotism in his choice of acting, I want to note that Leoni does a creditable Anderson - she has the vocal inflections down very well. Shandling does a terrible Duchovny, but that's part of the point...Skinner gets played by Richard Gere, after all. The film was full of subtle jokes for slash fans, too - Federman kissing Mulder while greeting Scully with a handshake, Mulder seeming more interested in Shandling's potential crush on him than Leoni's. It's all pretty Mulder-centric, but considering how Scully-centric I found the episode written and directed by Anderson, that's fine.
"California, here we come," Scully says as the spaceship from Plan 9 zooms across Mulder's TV screen. On a postmodern level, it's hard to stop laughing at Duchovny producing an episode in which his character gets mad at his boss for producing a film that shows him in an unflattering light. I don't even want to try to guess whether this is commentary on his relationship with Chris Carter or the studio, though I don't think it's an accident that the fake X-Files movie was filmed and screened at 20th Century Fox rather than some fictional Hollywood lot. The network doesn't seem to care that it's being laughed at. There were too many great lines - Mulder mad about the awful puns Duchovny wrote, Skinner wondering if Scully would assume he slept with JFK if he were carrying Marilyn Monroe's purse.
The Hollywood jokes (cell phone, inability to tell real life from special effects, etc.) are pretty predictable, but fit in unexpectedly well with what turns out to be the theme of embracing life in all its ridiculousness. Though Mulder plays skeptic to Scully's curiosity about the potential veracity of the Lazarus bowl, one gets the impression that he shares Hoffman's desire for a Jesus who enjoyed drinking, dancing and making love. With the cardinal dead for the rigidity of his beliefs and Hoffman murdered for repenting too late, the surprisingly joyous ending of "Hollywood A.D." would seem to support such a possibility.
The X-Files Reviews