5×19: Folie à Deux

“Dial and smile, Gary.” – Supervisor

Skinner sends our heroes to Illinois so that they can look into possible malfeasance at a vinyl siding company’s call center. What Mulder finds gives him quite the case of the heebie jeebies…

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: I was talking to my friend the other day about this blog and where were up to and what was coming down the pike and “Folie à Deux” came up in our conversation. He commented on how lousy he thought the episode was, and I thought he was as crazy as everyone made Gary Lambert out to be in this episode. In fact after rewatching the episode, I still hold this assertion. The season is winding down, but Vince Gilligan throws us a truly unsettling MOTW episode to chew on before the season finale sends us on a trajectory that will lead to the big feature film.

VinylRight is one of those companies that you know all too well, that never misses and opportunity to pitch you their products. This being the age before the National Do Not Call Registry, that included cold calling the hell out of housewives and professionals who make it their solemn duty to interrupt your dinner-time routine. The Oak Brook manager is Greg Pincus, a seemingly kind looking fellow just trying to make quota, but one of his telemarketers (Gary Lambert) just sent a manifesto to a radio station claiming something is rotten in Denmark Illinois.

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Just as soon as Mulder arrives to question potential suspects, Lambert pulls out an AK-47 and holds the entire facility hostage, dividing his coworkers into people he knows are “clean” and those he feels have been “infected” by his monster of a boss. Mulder, being an old pro at hostage negotiations (see “Duane Barry“), enters the facility to try to talk Lambert down. One body later and a SWAT team drives an armored vehicle into the building and kills Lambert before he had the chance to kill another person.

Ordinarily this would mean the case is closed, but this being The X-Files, Mulder can’t let what Lambert said to him go. In fact, he managed to catch a glimpse of Pincus’ true form himself, and this vision drives him a bit batty. He leaves the FBI headquarters to go back to Illinois to confront Pincus, and follows the man to the house of a VinylRight employee, who then wants to file charges of harassment against Agent Mulder. Skinner is forced to come down to get his charge out of yet another mess, all the while Mulder is talking monsters and drones and makes enough of a scene to get himself committed. If only Blevins and company knew it would be this easy to discredit him!

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Still, Scully sticks by her partner, even if she has disagreed with him throughout the whole case. She does manage to find three puncture wounds in the back of the neck of the employee that Lambert shot, and his time of death seems to be further back then when he was riddled with bullets. Pincus comes to the hospital to take Mulder out once and for all, but thank god for Scully’s timing (and a lucky look at the nurse’s true “infected” form) as she was able to wound the creature that was about to attack her partner.

It’s funny how this episode follows a kind of similar pattern as last season’s “Demons.” Both of these are penultimate episodes where Mulder is suffering from an apparent mental break, which leads to all the usual back and forth between him and Scully about the difference between what is actually going on and what Mulder believes is actually going on (and what Scully believes too, actually). The title of the episode comes from a psychological phenomena where delusional beliefs and symptoms are transmitted from one being to another. Quite a lot has been made out of the way, through her initial assignment debunking Mulder’s work, that Scully has been pulled into Mulder’s world, and while she still is stubbornly skeptical, there is no doubt that there is at least a bit of psychological transference.

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

“Folie à Deux” is also a pretty funny yet unsettling commentary on the drudgery of the corporate office environment that threatens to turn everyone into drones much the way Pincus does to his VinylRight employees across the country. The episode closes on yet another cubicle farm where a telemarketer begins to become aware of his environment and tells the poor sap on the other line the same kind of warnings Gary Lambert made. The Marxist in me would make all kinds of insights into this episode being an allegory for the proletariat attempting to rise up against the bourgeoisie, but I’ll settle for this being a warped take on Dilbert, or Kafka.

And a sidenote: we get a nice bit of unexpected continuity as Mulder is still sporting bandages on the pinky finger the Militia broke testing his loyalty last episode.

Radhika: I’ve always liked “Folie à Deux” as well, though I maybe liked it a little more when I was a younger viewer. Watching it now, I feel that it’s not as powerful as some of The X-Files‘ better episodes, but it’s a perfectly respectable installment of a TV show about monsters, and the ending implying that the nightmare isn’t over is pretty respectably standard for the genre.

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Every once in a while, we get to see Mulder annoyed with a case he’s been assigned to — and this is one of those cases. In fact, he’s rather vocal about the whole thing. Even though he’s working on the X-Files, has Skinner and Scully on his side and supportive of his work at this point, he starts out pretty pissed off that he’s been given an assignment he views as a dud. We’re treated to quite a delightful rant, in fact: “Have I finally reached that magic point in my career where every time somebody sees Bigfoot or the Virgin Mary on a tortilla, I get called to offer my special insight on the matter?” (The man has standards, people!)

Scully’s response is pretty great to this though: “You’re saying ‘I’ a lot. I heard ‘we.’ Nor do I assume that this case is just a waste of our time.” It’s the ultimate subtle smackdown. It even serves as a way to remind us that despite Scully’s insistence on sticking to her skepticism (her feeble attempts to explain the events of the episode are “It was dark” and “Folie à Deux. A madness shared by two”), she truly believes in their work on the X-Files.

Folie A Deux

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

And so of course, the topic of the Mulder-Scully bond, which I have always found special even outside a romantic lens, comes around again. When Mulder ends up locked up, he quips that Scully must have seen this coming after five years. But he does eventually get more serious, imploring her to believe him. “Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.” If that isn’t a powerful statement, I don’t know what is. And this is in fact completely true — no one else will unconditionally believe in Mulder the same way Scully does (even if she does make excuses about it being “dark”), and this is ultimately why Mulder gets saved (yet again) from monster-induced impending doom. (Sidenote: Can I just say how happy I am to see Scully get to do a little saving here? It’s been a while at this point.)

By the end, when Scully speaks of the “madness shared by two,” she just seems resigned to the fact that it’s the two of them against the world. It’s almost sweet, in a way, and perhaps an unintentional setup for what’s to come in the season finale and feature film.


Brian Markinson – Brian has been a constant presence in shows based and filmed in the Vancouver area for two decades, having had roles in Carter’s other show Millennium as well as Touching Evil, Dark Angel, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Caprica, and The Killing, as well as a role in the sixth season of Mad Men. Sadly, his character Gary Lambert didn’t dial and smile.

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.

Agent Rice – This is the fourth (and final time) Roger will grace an X-Files episode with his presence, playing an FBI agent out of the Chicago field office who picked up the case of Gary Lambert.


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