1×17: E.B.E.

“Mulder, the truth is out there, but so are lies.” — Dana Scully

As our heroes investigate the possible smuggling of a UFO and an extraterrestrial being, they soon realize they’re being watched and are possibly entangled in an even bigger web of lies than they could have imagined.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And so, the mythology thickens. This is an episode that has a bit of everything: The show’s evolving mythology, a paranoid atmosphere and some good quips, as well as the introduction of the fans’ beloved Lone Gunmen.

“E.B.E.,” short for Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, starts off in classic X-Files fashion, with Mulder and Scully investigating a possible UFO sighting in Tennessee before being shooed away. Somewhere along the line, the two agents realize they’re being watched, as well as being misled: Scully finds a surveillance device within her pen, and Mulder realizes that his trusted informant Deep Throat has provided him with a photo of a fake UFO, delaying access to the possible discovery of an actual extraterrestrial biological entity.

Mulder eventually fails to find the being, with Deep Throat explaining that the creature is dead. And we, the audience, learn a little more about why Deep Throat has been acting as Mulder’s informant: He feels guilty for having killed an E.B.E., described as having an “innocent and blank expression,” many years earlier.

There are two elements I love about this episode: The Lone Gunmen and the deepening of the conspiracies that Mulder and Scully find themselves getting entangled in. Regarding the first: The Lone Gunmen, a trio running a newsletter full of conspiracy theories, provide us with some comic relief, while also making Mulder look more “sane,” simply by being about ten times more paranoid than our favorite G-man. (There’s a surprisingly hilarious scene in this episode where in a tense moment, Mulder yells at Langly not to record their phone call, and the latter keeps insisting that he isn’t.) The three characters — Langly, Byers and Frohike — could not be more different in appearance or demeanor, and yet their paranoia binds them together.

And then regarding the conspiracies: We get to see more about the government’s involvement with extraterrestrials, and they’re becoming less of an abstract concept to us now. But it’s also interesting to watch how Mulder reacts to realizing that even his trusted informants aren’t always going to be on his side. Though he was already paranoid to begin with, we begin to see the deepening cynicism of Mulder, who is admittedly still rather naïve in the first season. There is something both jaded and forlorn about his closing line when Deep Throat comments on how quiet he’s being. “I’m wondering which lie to believe,” Mulder says, reminding us viewers that it’s going to be a very long and complicated journey toward finding the truth.

Max: Where do I even begin in terms of talking about one of my ten favorite episodes of the entire series? In terms of the mythology, this is really where we get our first big pieces of the puzzle, including a secret agreement made by the big powers of the post-World War II political landscape regarding the extermination of any alien being who happens to come into our sphere of influence. This is important given the scope of the mythology to come, and with it, Deep Throat’s motivation for reaching out to Mulder and betraying his conspirators.

But more than that, I love “E.B.E.” for its incredible labyrinth of mystery and misdirection. At every turn, we learn to distrust the answers given to us, and to question our sources of information. Mulder and Scully are constantly being lied to or spied upon, and this includes a fabulous homage to Gene Hackman in The Conversation where Mulder tears through his apartment looking for bugs. Yes, this is also a first in the series, as we finally get to see the infamous apartment 42 to which our blog title pays homage. We also see the purple light bulb that Mulder uses to get in touch with Deep Throat.

With so many firsts, including as Radhika has mentioned, the appearance of The Lone Gunmen, it really speaks to the quality of the episode that their presence (which will become a highlight over the years) isn’t even the best part of the story. We immediately get an incredible sense of who these three paranoids are in a deceptively simple five-minute scene, and their rapport with our heroes is incredibly endearing.

What is also impressive is the degree to which the conspiracy attempts to lure away the agents from the truth, including some impressively doctored photographs and even an entire faked alien abduction/encounter. Not that this deters Mulder and Scully in the slightest, and they can give as well as they take when they use some misdirection of their own to elude their minders en route to Seattle, including ditching tails, buying false plane tickets, and staying off the grid.

Ultimately, “E.B.E.” is important not for the answers it gives but rather the elucidation of the complicated series of circumstances in which Mulder and Scully will have to operate for the rest of the series. Both our heroes and the audience will have to tread carefully amongst facts both true and fabricated to get a sense of what is really going on concerning humankind’s encounters with extraterrestrials, as well as the efforts to cover up their existence to the general public, of which we’ve seen hints (especially in episodes like “Fallen Angel”). The key takeaway of the entire episode is when Scully tells Mulder that he is the only one she trusts. This bedrock is what will power and ground the mythology, even as things get more bizarre and outlandish, always connecting the audience to what is going on onscreen.

A recurring section in where we note the appearance of the journeyman actor and constant television presence in several unrelated guest spots on different episodes of the show.

Officer Green – Here, Roger plays a military officer at the secure facility The Lone Gunmen hack into to get Mulder and Scully access to where they believe an alien body is held. He’s a gruff military man who follows orders, so forgive him if he’s a little stiff around the edges. Still, it’s a classic moment when after Mulder breaks off to find the body after the jig is up, Scully immediately raises her arm in surrender, knowing that our proud officer will invariably escort her away. Your tax dollars hard at work here people….


6 thoughts on “1×17: E.B.E.

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  5. I understand this episode was important for the mythology, the lone gunment, the conspiracy thickening… However, I have no faith the writers/showrunners are taking us anywhere with this, and that doesn’t let me get very enthusiastic about this. Some nice moments, like the bugged pen (the one that Scully lent to that lady). It was nice to get a motivation for Deep Throat, although still his attitude doesn’t make much sense to me. Does he want Mulder to really prove anything or not? If he does he surely has the means to let him get those proofs. If he doesn’t, why on Earth is he giving him information at all? It’s like he wants him to find something but at the same time he doesn’t want him to find anything. Then there are some arbitrary things, like Mulder proclaiming the truck abduction a fake because the cronometers marked the same time. So what? Is that a proof of anything? I don’t know. So far, from a storytelling point of view, these mythology episodes just do not seem as good as some of the monster of the week episodes.

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