“The only thing you people are cursed with is stupidity. All of you. Everybody. Mankind. Everyone I have ever come into contact with without fail. Always asking for the wrong thing.” — Jenn
Be careful what you wish for Mulder and Scully. When a case involves an honest-to-goodness genie, you might just get it.
Max: Vince Gilligan has been quoted as saying that the seventh season of The X-Files is one of his favorites, by the sheer dint of its relish for radical experimentation. We spoke a lot about how the desire to tinker with the formula of the show informed the season prior, but not a whole lot about the season that we are about to wrap up coverage on. The frequent refrain for us has been disappointment followed by ways this could’ve been better or if they would’ve just focused on that then we would have an improved episode. Admittedly, even though Radhika and I have beat up on the show this season, I can somewhat see Gilligan’s point, even though I believe that his biases are showing through in those statements. “Je Souhaite,” an episode penned and directed by Gilligan himself, is a late-season rally, and one of the best episodes I’ve rewatched in a long time.
Anson Stokes is a layabout employee of a self storage facility with aspirations for the good life, so when he finds a female genie wrapped up in a carpet while cleaning out a deadbeat’s storage unit, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Unfortunately for him, he foolishly squanders his first two wishes on the unnecessary (shutting his boss up for good) and the utterly impractical (a giant yacht right in the middle of flyover country). When the beleaguered boss asks for our agent’s help after surgeons are utterly baffled by his condition, things just go from bad to worse for Stokes and his wheelchair bound brother Leslie.
Anson’s final wish of invisibility leads to his death, and Leslie doesn’t fare that much better with his set of wishes, which include bringing Anson back from the dead. Meanwhile, Mulder discovers that the genie has been the woman behind the man in a couple of high profile instances (Mussolini and Nixon), and Scully is absolutely ecstatic to show colleagues Anson’s invisible corpse, that is, before it walks off when Leslie makes his wishes. Putting the pieces together, Mulder unrolls the carpet himself (after an explosion at the Stokes’ trailer home causes the demise of both brothers) and is faced with the challenge of crafting the perfect set of wishes.
When I was in middle school, I wrote a short story about a genie who became so disgusted by having to attend to his master’s selfish and hedonistic lifestyle that he decides to hang himself so he wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. A lot of those sentiments is what informs the character of Jenn here. Over the course of five hundred years, she has grown infinitely frustrated by the capricious and ill-conceived desires of those who have unrolled her carpet.
It’s quite hilarious to have her try to point out to both Anson and Leslie the possibility that they could use a wish to have Leslie walk again. When it comes to making a wish that is legitimately beneficial, they can’t see the forest for the trees. It is a theme of the entire episode, where the results of the wishes only serve to highlight the absurdity of the wishes themselves. It really is quite a shame that this is Paula Sorge’s most high profile acting credit, because she imbues Jenn with such amazing wit and pathos. Her interactions with everyone from the Stokes to Mulder and Scully are absolutely crackling, and a pleasure to watch.
At this late date, “Je Souhaite,” stands as a truly memorable entry of The X-Files. It hits all the right notes, and it delightfully plays with the audiences’ deep familiarity with Mulder and Scully as well as the contours of what an episode of the show are and could be. This season may have been a slog for us, but I like to think our patience is rewarded with this episode.
Radhika: I also really enjoy the hell out of “Je Souhaite” and can’t really complain about it. It’s one of the more creative Monster of the Week episodes at this point in the show’s run, relying on a tried-but-true mythological creature in a fun way. The disdain and boredom displayed by the genie here, the Barbara Eden/I Dream of Jeannie jokes and the pure fun of it all really sit well with me.
I love Scully in this episode even though she’s eventually deflated by her botched scientific discovery. It is a delight to witness her excitement at discovering the invisible body — with her surprised smiles and bouncy demeanor as she covers the body in powder in order to make it visible. For a character who rarely cracked a smile on our TV screens, she really could light up a room when she dared to be happy, and I’ll repeat what I have oft-repeated before: I wish we could see more of this Scully more often. Her interactions with Mulder are fantastic as well, and this is one of those episodes where their friendship is beautifully highlighted (with little hints in retrospect that they’re perhaps a little more intimate than we realize). There is no bitter squabbling and the quippy banter is the most playful it has been in a while — a true sign that these two really have hit a sweet spot in their relationship and are in a happy place.
Looking back, I feel a twinge of sadness in rewatching this episode — it’s really kind of the last time we get to see Mulder and Scully have this kind of fun without any painful consequences for a very long time. It’s the last lighthearted MOTW episode with the two of them being the stars of the show together. There are some reasonably decent X-Files stories ahead, even with a fairly weak final season and second movie, but this feels a bit like Mulder and Scully’s last hurrah (as much as I like the next episode, “Requiem,” and the way certain events are revisited there). But while I’m a little sad about it all, I’m glad we have this episode — it didn’t end up being one with much of a plot, but there’s something ultimately very sweet and fun and loving to the fans here. It’s really a wonderful way to start bringing an era to a close.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Kevin Weisman – Playing Anson Stokes, Weisman is best known for playing tech guru Marshall Flinkman on the J.J. Abrams show Alias. Other television credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, Perception, Roswell, and Felicity. On the big screen, he’s been in Gone in 60 Seconds, Clerks II, and The Rock.
Will Sasso – The other Stokes brother, Will Sasso parlayed his success on the sketch comedy show MADtv into roles in Entourage, Childrens Hospital, Modern Family, and Justified. His film credits include Best in Show, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Southland Tales, A Mighty Wind, and Happy Gilmore.