7×20: Fight Club

“What I’m thinking, Mulder, is how familiar this seems. Playing Watson to your Sherlock. You dangling clues out in front of me one by one. It’s a game, and… and, as usual, you’re holding something back from me. You’re not telling me something about this case.” — Dana Scully

Mulder and Scully investigate a case of doppelgängers that seem to leave a wave of destruction in their path.

Fight Club

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And here we are: One of the most reviled episodes of The X-Files, ever, perhaps even worse than some real doozies like “The Field Where I Died” and “El Mundo Gira.” This is an episode I’ve refused to rewatch until I had to for this blog, and I’m not going to lie — I did a little multitasking while watching in an effort to suppress my feelings of rage. I’m happy to report that I was able to stay sane watching it thanks to this approach, but that doesn’t mean I like the episode any better.

The episode generally focuses on Betty Templeton and Lulu Pfeiffer, doppelgängers who seem to have disastrous effects on their surroundings when they’re in the same place at the same time: People fight, the earth quakes, all sorts of mayhem ensues. And it turns out the two women have also been sleeping with the same man, a wrestler named Bert Zupanic. A few facts emerge — the two women actually share the same father, a rage-filled guy in prison. And eventually, we learn that Zupanic also has a doppelgänger/twin — mayhem of course follows when all four doppelgängers are in the same place, and the episode ends on a mildly bemused chaotic note with both Mulder and Scully recovering from injuries resulting from their encounter with these violence-inducing duos.

Fight Club

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

I couldn’t really bother with the random nuances of the plot here, because it isn’t much of a plot when you think about it. Even Scully is a little confused at the end, saying, “I would like to say it has something to do with balance in the universe, the attraction of opposites and the repulsion of equivalents,” indicating that much of “Fight Club” is an incomplete idea. The premise could be more interesting than it ends up being, and yet it isn’t — is it the “acting” of Kathy Griffin, someone I’ve never enjoyed? Is it the lack of character development for the doppelgängers she’s playing? The two women hate each other, but we don’t know much about them beyond that hate (and their mutual appreciation for Zupanic).

Mulder and Scully keep making quippy self-aware jokes that are even more self-aware than usual, to the point where it’s not even funny or cute — just an anvil crashing on top of our heads. The characters induce rage (I feel especially angry watching the scenes with the women’s angry father, which I guess was the point, but am I really supposed to get a headache from it?). Even the score is jarring! It’s like nothing about this episode is remotely pleasant to watch.

I do kind of like that we got to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s stunt doubles/stand-ins (one being Mitch Pileggi’s wife, Arlene) play the hapless agents that beat each other up in the beginning, but I’m afraid that’s about it. I never want to think about this episode again.

Fight Club

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: Never again. No, not the season four episode of our beloved show, but my sentiments regarding this episode. Barring me getting paid a significant amount of money to do so, this will hopefully be the last time I will ever have the displeasure of watching “Fight Club.” The vitriol has indeed runneth over behind the scenes here at Apt. 42 Revisited, as each episode this season has brought Radhika and I closer and closer to a reckoning that some might say was tinged with a Lovecraftian sense of dread. Which is why it was surprising for me watching the episode earlier this week and getting some genuine chuckles out of it.

I don’t know why, but the kind of humor on display in the scenes between Scully and Angry Bob has the tendency to tickle my funny bone. I think it is the result of the combination of the labored dialogue paired with the extremely contrasted demeanors of the characters involved. A lot of it has to do with the marvelous way Gillian Anderson just rolls with the punches when it comes to her being the straight man in incredibly wacky situations. This was evident all the way back in season three’s “War of the Coprophages,” when her reaction to the mass exodus of customers and employees of a convenience store was to nonchalantly pick up a knocked over box of chocolate candies and eat a few, mulling over in her head how the hell she managed to get into the situation she was in.

Does this in any way redeem the episode we have reviewed for your approval? Absolutely not. “Fight Club,” was penned by head honcho Chris Carter, and we’ve thrown out a lot of jokes on the blog about his writing style. but generally his name isn’t the one we associate with the best writing that the show has to offer (“Syzygy” and “Irresistible” excepting). The episode is a scattershot, underdeveloped mess, and trying way too hard to be cute and clever. Don’t even get me started on Kathy Griffith, whom I can only take in small stand-up sized doses. And in the battle between sassy 1990s sitcom redheads, I’ll take NewsRadio‘s Vicki Lewis any day of the week and twice on Sundays.


Kathy Griffin – Playing Betty Templeton and Lulu Pfeiffer in this episode, Griffin is a comic actress and TV host. Griffin was in a supporting role on sitcom Suddenly Susan and also had a Bravo reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. She’s done a number of standup specials and is the new host of Fashion Police.

Randall “Tex” Cobb – Appearing here as Bert Zupanic (and his double), Cobb is a former heavyweight boxer who has acted in numerous TV shows and movies. Guest roles have included stints on Miami Vice and Walker, Texas Ranger.

Jack McGee – We know him here as “Angry Bob,” but McGee has acted in a large number of films and TV shows and may perhaps be best known for playing Chief Jerry Reilly on the TV series Rescue Me.


4 thoughts on “7×20: Fight Club

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