“Scully, did you ever have one of those days you wish you could rewind and start all over again from the beginning?” — Fox Mulder
“Yes. Frequently. But, I mean, who’s… who’s to say that if you did rewind it and start over again that it wouldn’t end up exactly the same way?” — Dana Scully
Mulder and Scully are trapped in a time loop where a bank robbery gone awry keeps repeating itself.
Radhika: I may not like Mondays, but I love “Monday.” (I’m not sorry). This is probably one of my favorite outings from season six; in fact, I taped the episode when it aired (on a VCR!) and kept watching it over and over again until the next episode aired. And watching it again for this blog, I found that my feelings about it haven’t changed all that much.
A bit of a Groundhog Day-inspired episode, “Monday” is pretty simple, but builds up suspense rather successfully. The viewer gets wrapped up in figuring out how Mulder and Scully will manage to get themselves out of this mess, which isn’t a small feat considering how many episodes of peril we’ve seen up until this point.
The teaser shows us Mulder bleeding from a gunshot wound in the middle of a holdup at a bank. Scully’s trying to help him while also trying to reason with the gunman (who has a bomb strapped to him), but as police storm the building, the bomb is detonated. And when we come back from the opening credits, Mulder is waking up to his waterbed (a leftover from Morris Fletcher) springing a leak, which means his apartment and the apartment downstairs are flooding. He needs to go deposit a check at the bank to make sure his landlord gets the money he owes for damages, and now we know what sets off this series of events. We eventually realize the day is repeating itself over and over again, even when Mulder and Scully do things a little differently.
Another character — Pam, the girlfriend of the bomb- and gun-wielding robber — ends up being essential. She’s the only one with a clear understanding of the time loop they’re in, though it starts to sink in with Mulder after she approaches him. Poor Pam has tried many things to change the day’s outcome, but nothing seems to be working. At the end of the episode, Pam is brought into the bank in an attempt to reason with her boyfriend Bernard and while the time loop is finally broken, the ending is still tragic. When Bernard attempts to shoot Mulder, Pam dives in front of the agent, which results in a fatal injury. “This never happened before,” she says, and Bernard — stunned by what has happened — allows himself to get arrested. All is back to normal.
What I appreciate about Monday is how normal it is outside the time loop scenario. Sure, it’s a bit weird: Mulder’s actually sleeping in his bedroom, not the couch, the waterbed from the “Dreamland” episodes is back. But we’re seeing the minute details of life — Mulder needing to make sure his bank account has enough money, him falling over a pair of shoes after waking up on the wrong side of bed in the morning, Scully trying to survive a boring meeting and trying to make sure her partner doesn’t miss it. And ordinary as these details are, they are effective in building up suspense, while also providing a balanced sense of comedy and poignancy — a balance that has perhaps been lacking this season, even though it’s also a stronger season than many thought in retrospect.
Carrie Hamilton’s appearance as Pam is also a highlight of this episode. We don’t know too much about her or Bernard, aside from the fact that he’s unhappy with his line of work, leading to his desperate behavior. But Pam, a one-time character, is someone you can really feel for. Hamilton really sold the world weary, desperate feeling someone in this situation would have — and when her character dies in the end, I still find it incredibly sad. Her situation was tragic no matter what, and it really feels quite unfair since she’s not a bad guy here.
Max: Oh man, Mondays are the worst! However, like Radhika, I loves me some “Monday,” a stellar episode from this season. Most repeating day narratives don’t really reward repeated viewings, but the best of them (like this) craft the story in a way that build upon and complicate what we know from previous iterations to land on some really sensational story beats. The key here is simplicity of the narrative like my partner outlined, which permits the kind of quantum detours necessary to the format.
Indeed, the devil is truly in the details, as Pam knows all too well, suffering from the same explosive trauma for god knows how many times, even when she tries to deliberately sabotage her boyfriend in futile attempts to dissuade him from robbing the bank. The most effective MOTW episodes either reflect the lives and relationships of our heroes or speak to larger themes that connect all of us to a greater sense of humanity.
This sort of philosophizing begins in the basement office, when Mulder begins to pick up a whiff of deja vu when recalling to Scully the various mishaps he experienced in his apartment before coming to work. Thy talk about the little details, all those forks in the road. Everyone has had those moments where they look back and say to themselves, “If only I did this” or “What would’ve happened if I was late to that conference?” On the other side of the coin, you have Pam, who is cursed by her so-called gift of perfect information (much like Clyde Bruckman and Arthur Fellig before her). We really can’t applaud Ms. Hamilton’s performance enough, because we can see the existential dilemma that is etched on her face.
There is also of course the dark humor that comes from the mundanities of the everyday, and nothing says this more than Agent Arnold’s “electrifying” presentation on federal crime projects versus the earlier Tanner study. Mulder and Scully may be back working on the X-Files, but apparently this doesn’t excuse them (well, more like Scully in this case) from having to attend utterly dry meetings where a good deal is said but very little is done. This is contrasted nicely with the standoff at the bank, where actions are all that matters in determining whether or not Bernard flicks the switch on his bomb, deciding to definitively end his crisis of ennui.
Still, it is interesting how details can shift from something boring and humdrum (all those statistics and figures from the presentation) to vital and energetic organisms, imbued with importance because of their context. Waking up late for work happens to people all the time, but when that tardiness results in someone’s death or meeting the person that would become your spouse, that string of events becomes quite important indeed. A character in the recent seasons of Doctor Who holds onto a leaf, which is special to her because the path it took resulted in her parents meeting. These kind of totems speak a kind of cosmic language that transcends time and space, to events imprinted. The trauma that Mulder, Scully, Bernard, and Pam endure eventually bubbles up from Mulder’s subconscious, allowing him during the final iteration to end things on a different note.
And so Pam is the sacrificial lamb, only finding relief (like her cursed forebearers) in the finality of death. “Monday” is X-Files par excellence, and rewatching gems like this make our rewatch a joy.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Carrie Hamilton – The daughter of Carol Burnett and producer Joe Hamilton, Carrie Hamilton was an actress, singer and playwright who played the role of Pam in this episode. She was on the TV series Fame and was in the first national tour of the musical Rent. Sadly, just a few years after this episode aired, Hamilton died of cancer at age 38.
Darren E. Burrows – Burrows, an actor and director, appeared in this episode as Bernard, but was perhaps best known for his role as Ed Chigliak on Northern Exposure. He was also in Cry-Baby and Amistad, among other film and TV roles.