Wish I May, Wish I Might
"Je Souhaite" Plot Summary:
In a small town in Missouri, the owner of a storage facility orders employee Anson Stokes to clean up bay 407. Stokes, who wants to read boat catalogues, grudgingly goes in and unrolls an old rug, which contains a woman with a diamond next to her eye. When the boss, Gilmore, returns an hour later and yells at Stokes, his mouth suddenly disappears.
At FBI headquarters, Mulder introduces Gilmore to Scully. The man with the surgically created mouth complains that police wouldn't arrest Stokes because there was no proof Stokes was responsible for his condition. As they travel to the Mark Twain Trailer Court in Missouri, Scully cites medical conditions which could have reduced Gilmore's mouth to a slit. Both are stopped by the sight of a huge boat parked beside Stokes' trailer. Believing the agents are from the IRS, Stokes hides, but his brother Leslie answers their knock in his wheelchair and assures them about the taxes. Mulder says he's not there to talk about the boat, but about Gilmore's accident, which Leslie blames on chemicals in the storage facility. Mulder greets the woman from the rug, who's hanging out in the kitchen.
Inside bay 407, Mulder finds a 1978 calendar and an old photo of the woman from the trailer, while Scully admires the valuable old furniture and wonders whether theft made possible the purchase of the boat. Back at the trailer, Stokes complains that he wasted his first two wishes since the woman provided no water to go with the boat; he also blames her for Gilmore's condition, since all he said was that he wanted the guy to shut up. The woman says Stokes should have been more specific and suggests brains, talent, and hard work as an alternative to wishing for money. She indicates the brother in the wheelchair, but both men are oblivious. Then Stokes wishes he could turn invisible at will, to spy on people and get stock tips. Done, says the woman. Stokes strips, vanishes, knocks over trash cans, pursues a couple of girls across the street...and gets hit by a truck.
When the invisible corpse is wheeled in for an autopsy, Scully uses yellow powder to make it visible, thrilling at the scientific marvel. She can tell that it's Stokes from the dental records. When he visits Leslie Stokes, Mulder wonders why the brother isn't surprised about the invisibility of the corpse, and suggests that the mysterious missing woman is a female genie. Surprised that Mulder believes in that, Leslie says Mulder can have the object that grounds the woman and gives him an old metal urn. By the time he gets to Scully, Mulder has realized that the urn contains weed, not a genie, but she's too excited about the doctors she has flying in to see the invisible corpse to care.
Mulder searches for the woman in image databases and spots her with both Mussolini and Nixon. Meanwhile, Leslie Stokes goes to the storage facility, unrolls the rug, and starts planning his wishes. When the genie suggests that he might want to do something about his disability, he realizes he could wish for a solid gold wheelchair...but there's something he wants more than that, he says, looking at Anson's photo. When Scully leads her team of experts in to see the invisible corpse, it's gone. Anson Stokes is home, still smashed up by the truck, covered with flies and yellow powder, shivering uncontrollably. When Leslie uses his second wish to ask that Anson be able to talk, he screams and demands to know what Leslie did to him. Angrily the brother wheels out of the room, deciding to use his third wish for himself. He asks for legs just as Anson, trying to light the gas stove, causes the trailer to explode.
Since the genie won't tell Mulder her name, he calls her Jen and inquires as to whether she's a good genie or a bad genie. Jen says that human beings are themselves cursed with stupidity, so they ask for the wrong things, without fail. "In 500 years people have not changed a bit," though they smell better now. Turns out she was born human in 15th century France, unleashed a genie of her own, got 3 wishes, and after choosing a mule and some magic turnips, wished for great power and long life. Thus she became a genie forever. "Am I under arrest?" she asks pointedly. Scully says no, she's free to go, but the genie says she isn't: Mulder unrolled her, now he gets three wishes.
Alone with Mulder, Jen says she doesn't think his partner likes her much, then tells Mulder what she'd wish for, besides a great cup of coffee: "I'd wish I'd never heard the word 'wish' before...I'd wish I could live my life moment by moment enjoying what it is instead of worrying about what it isn't...but then again, I'm not you." Mulder guesses that an altruistic wish will have no dire consequences, and wishes for peace on earth. "Done," says Jen. "Oh crap," he says, rushing outside to find that there are no people anywhere - the cars are empty, the sidewalks silent.
"Scully?" Mulder calls anxiously, rushing to his office, then Skinner's. The genie scorns his claim that she didn't have to wipe out the entire population for peace on earth and goodwill towards men because he didn't specify the latter - anyway, not even Jesus, Mohammed, or Buddha accomplished goodwill towards men. "I bet you wish you hadn't made that first wish," she notes. Mulder says, "Yes, I do." Thus Skinner and a number of directors have popped back into existence when Mulder tells Jen that she's a bitch. "How did you get in here?" Skinner demands.
Mulder writes a detailed wish on his computer to make sure Jen can't try to bring back the Third Reich or anything. Scully comes in, asking Jen to give them a moment alone, then suggesting it must be hypnotism when the genie disappears. Though she concedes that the woman might be able to do what Mulder believes, Scully warns, "What you're doing is dangerous." Maybe the point of everyone's lives on Earth is to try to achieve a world without hunger, tyranny, and hatred. If Mulder's wish is so specific that he can target the bad and keep the good, he's erasing the raison d'etre for millions. After Scully leaves, Mulder shuts his computer.
Later Mulder pops a tape in his VCR and sits down to popcorn and beer with Scully, insisting that they watch Caddyshack, a "classic American movie." He asks if she noticed he didn't make world a happier place. She says she's happy, but wonders what his final wish was for. As "I'm Alright" plays on the television, Mulder grins mysteriously. At a diner somewhere in America, Jen sits with no diamond by her eye, and orders coffee.
"Je Souhaite" is a perfectly delightful episode despite being predictable moment by moment. It's based on a cliche, "Be careful what you wish for," and its plot is a straight riff from the classic W.W. Jacobs short story "The Monkey's Paw." So we know Leslie is going to wish for Anson back - and he's going to be gross and stink just like in Pet Sematery. And we know that when Scully opens the drawer with the invisible man to show off to her colleagues, the body's going to be missing, yet she'll say, "Well, he's INVISIBLE!" like a stupid courtier in "The Emperor's New Cloak."
But knowing what's coming doesn't make the events any less funny, particularly given what a good time the actors seem to be having. It's delightful to see Gillian Anderson playing broad comedy for once, laughing at herself, while Mulder gets stuck being overly serious since he knows from the outset that the genie is real - hence it's doubly adorable to hear him get stuck humming the I Dream of Jeannie theme song with Leslie. The Stokes brothers give new meaning to the phrase "the stupidest people alive," yet they stop short of caricature - it's possible to feel some sympathy for them and at the same time giggle a little when they meet their unfortunate demise.
Jen's not Robin Williams from Aladdin, but her acerbic wit works well in this small-town tale, while her personal history explains a lot about her cynicism. She and Mulder generate nice chemistry too. Nothing quite tops the unlucky wisher who dies of a killer erection, or "chronic morbid tumescence," though I find it hard to believe bigger boobs and bigger "hoo-hoos" have really been an overriding concern for 500 years - I was under the impression that clean water and safe childbirth occupied many people's minds in previous centuries. But it's more comical, not to mention more plausible, to assume Jen's been stuck with Mussolini-types who would never think to wish for peace on earth - surely there are even some who wouldn't reverse the extinction of most of the human race.
As always, the moral is about how dangerous it is to wish for what you most want - even if you survive it, you never get to enjoy it. So although I am sure there will be fan fiction in which Mulder thinks about wishing Scully would tell him she loves him, we all know he's too smart for that. Curiously, there was quite a bit of unexpected physical affection between the two of them - Mulder actually put his arm around Scully as they approached the trailers (named for yet another author of witty, cautionary adventure tales). This movie night business seems to be becoming a regular feature - Mulder did promise to watch Steel Magnolias with her, after all. I wonder if assistant producer Walter Skinner knows.
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