“Um, Scully? What killed him?” — Richard Langly
“My medical opinion? Beeeeeeeeeeeep!” — Dana Scully, smacking hands together
In this The Lone Gunmen-centric episode, Byers continues his search for the mysterious Susanne Modeski and Scully gets roped in.
Radhika: Here’s another Lone Gunmen story for us after last season’s “Unusual Suspects” —a weird mix between mythology and Monster of the Week, “Three of a Kind” also manages to be something of a sequel to its predecessor. At times, the episode feels like filler — pleasant enough to watch, but not super memorable or necessary. However, it manages to balance some comedic elements with poignancy as well, serving as a good way to wind down this season.
The Lone Gunmen are hanging around Las Vegas, poking around a government convention. Byers is hoping to run into Susanne Modeski, a woman he still carries a torch for after meeting her 10 years earlier before she disappeared. The Lone Gunmen trick Scully into joining them, using their techie skills to pretend Mulder is summoning her to work on a new case. Byers discovers Susanne Modeski is around — alive and well, but she may have been brainwashed.
Meanwhile, a friend of the Lone Gunmen’s, hoping to stumble across new assassination techniques, ends up killing himself (all due to a mystery drug that makes him fairly susceptible to suggestion) — and Scully ends up injected with the drug herself, resulting in some silly, flirtatious behavior. Susanne identifies the drug and realizes her fiancé has leaked it to the government. The Lone Gunmen come up with an elaborate plot to spirit Susanne away, but unfortunately their plan is discovered. But eventually all is right in the end — Susanne’s fiancé is killed, the man behind the killing turns himself in after some brainwashing thanks to The Lone Gunmen, and Susanne leaves with a new identity.
Episodes or scenes involving The Lone Gunmen usually have an aura of levity by default. And so, of course this episode has its silly moments: Nerd humor, coupled with Scully’s hilariously out-of-character behavior thanks to being injected by a mind-altering drug. While I wish we could see this side of Scully without strange substances being involved, I definitely laughed my head off at her explanation for The Lone Gunmen’s friend Jimmy’s death, as well as her use of “Sure, cutie,” while talking to Langly. And let’s face it: It’s always nice to hear Scully laugh. Her eventual non-drugged “I am gonna kick their asses” when she realizes The Lone Gunmen tricked her is also pretty great. A brief cameo by Morris Fletcher of “Dreamland” fame also adds to the bizarre nature of the episode.
But there are also genuine, heartfelt moments. Frohike, typically the one to make comments about Scully’s hotness, realizes pretty quickly that something is wrong with her — alarmed when she seems ready to smoke a cigarette, he warns Fletcher and other men flirting with Scully to “back off” or they might be “committing a federal offense.” His concern for her well-being is sweet and shows how well he knows Scully at this point.
And then there’s poor Byers, left behind with the ring Susanne meant for her fiancé after he decides to let her start a new life without him. Finding Susanne again is something Byers has wanted for years, but he also recognizes that a happily-ever-after ending may not be in the cards for him. This harkens back to the episode’s teaser, where Byers spells out a fantasy of his: “In my dream, the events of November 22, 1963 never happened. In it, my namesake was never assassinated… My country is hopeful and innocent…. My fellow citizens trust their elected officials…. I have everything a person could want: home and family and love.” He eventually says this dream of his ends the same way, with him losing everything.
Byers’ dream is actually pretty representative of a common theme in season six: Episodes like “Dreamland” allow Mulder to experience the normal life he may have encountered had he never lost his sister. “Arcadia,” while a fluffy Monster of the Week episode, allows Mulder and Scully to play house. This has been a season relatively devoid of angst, something I — and other viewers — enjoyed to a degree, seeing Mulder and Scully enjoy life from time to time and not in constant danger (at least not the constant danger seen circa seasons two through four). “Three of a Kind” contains a logical continuation of that fantasy: The calm before the storm, if you will.
Max: Episodes that prominently feature The Lone Gunmen are always fun to watch (which is probably why someone thought it a good idea for them to helm their own spinoff series down the line), and “Three of a Kind” is no different. Sometimes you forget that the tight-knit group of conspiracy-minded outcasts came together as the accidental result of them being all at the same Baltimore tech convention when a woman named Susanne Modeski (and one Fox Mulder) breezed into their lives. Encountering Susanne in Las Vegas is a tip of the hat to their origin story, and acts as the emotional through-point from which flows the sad-sack nature of their enterprise that lurks just under the hijinks.
As for Mulder, his absence from the episode is a result of David Duchovny having to work on prepping and shooting his directorial debut that was the previous episode. Thus, we get Scully’s most extended interaction with the Lone Gunmen in the series’ history, which happens to work out thematically given that they were who she turned to in “One Son” when she needed to convince Mulder of Diana Fowley’s true allegiances. Here, her medical background gives credence to the Gunmen’s crackpot theories even before Susanne approaches Byers to confirm their suspicions.
“Three of a Kind” is also a pretty well-rounded episode that gives all three Gunmen some meaty material to work from. Radhika mentioned Byers’ star-crossed romance with Susanne and Frohike’s defense of Scully as she is propositioned at the bar under the influence, but Langly has some pretty terrific beats here as he is lured by Timmy and impressed into service as a stealth assassin. It’s incredibly humorous to see quintessential geek Lord Manhammer be transformed (or so Timmy thinks) into a stoic killer bent on ending Susanne’s life for threatening to expose her latest project to the press. That little detail provided some great tension in the latter half of the episode, as we the audience weren’t initially privy to the fact that Scully and Susanne knew to check Langly for the tell-tale injection mark on his neck. What is it with this show and people’s necks anyway?!?
It is insights like those Radhika made above about dreams and the possibility of other lives that redeems the excesses of experimentation throughout the season. We’ve touched on the uneveness and the lack of a consistent tone in season six, as well as given our theories on the root cause(s), but frequently the fruits of boundary redefining work don’t come in direct or easily grokked packages. Philes may gripe about missing the moody atmospherics and chilling tales of the Vancouver years, but I find myself at this stage of our rewatch (both in terms of the season and the series) admiring the cast and crew for taking the risk of striking out (I’m sorry, baseball puns were for last episode) to produce some of the most memorable entries of The X-Files.
And it is always fun to see Frohike threatening to throw down with casino security. “Hey man, you wanna thunderdome, let’s go.” Oh boy do I ever…
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
John Billingsley – Making his appearance as Timmy in this episode, Billingsley may be best known as Doctor Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise. He has appeared on episodes of Scrubs, the CSI franchise, Prison Break and Grey’s Anatomy.
Charles Rocket – Rocket plays Modeski’s fiance Grant in this episode, Rocket was a cast member on Saturday Night Live. He also appeared in films like Earth Girls Are Easy, Hocus Pocus, Dumb and Dumber and Dances With Wolves. He died in 2005 with his death ruled a suicide.