Season 5, Episode 12: “Bad Blood”
Original Airdate: February 22, 1998
There was a time when a television program could do a funny vampire episode that did not contain even one joke about vampires sparkling in the sun, do you remember that? “Bad Blood” is just such a vintage gem, a Vince Gilligan-penned monster-of-the-comic-relief with an irresistible premise and no brooding whatsoever. It’s also The X-Files’ funniest episode since the departure of Darin Morgan and a delightful send-up of the show’s most crucial relationship.
The deal is, Mulder has killed a suspect that he thought was a vampire. Only now it looks like the kid wasn’t a vampire at all—his fangs were plastic—and Mulder and Scully have been called to Skinner’s office to explain. Before heading upstairs, each recounts their version of the investigation. It’s a simple narrative trick but so damn delightful, because what is more fun than watching your two favorite characters reveal how they see each other? To each other? No matter how much they love each other, no matter how many times they’ve saved each other, there’s no way that either of them thinks either of them is a total saint.
Scully goes first. In her version she is cautious, brilliant, and eternally put-upon. She stands with her arms professionally folded while Mulder, “characteristically exuberant,” talks super-fast, spits jokes, and makes fun of her logical explanations. There’s a small town with a lot of dead cows and one dead human, all bodies with two puncture wounds in the neck. Mulder thinks vampires, Scully thinks someone who has seen one too many monster movies. The local sheriff (played by Luke Wilson!) is incredibly handsome and very interested in all of her scientific knowledge; Mulder is a thoughtless jerk who makes Scully do a bunch of autopsies on an empty stomach and then jumps on her bed while wearing muddy clothes.
What’s fun about Scully’s version of events is how the Mulder she describes is exactly the Mulder you and I might describe when we are most exasperated with him. It’s a harsh review, though not particularly mean-spirited. He does, often, send her off to do an autopsy while he goes and chases a lead and then doesn’t explain himself. He doesn’t necessarily then jump on her bed? Except maybe spiritually. Fittingly, Duchovny plays Scully-Mulder like a little fiend, a devil who is also your brother who occasionally needs to be saved from himself.
Because yes, that’s the other thing. Scully orders a pizza, Mulder intercepts the pizza and sends her out to examine another victim, Scully realizes that the pizza delivery boy is the killer/possible vampire and rushes back to save her favorite little fiend. He’s drugged (via pizza) and sings the theme from Shaft as he comes to (although Mulder protests very few specific details in Scully’s story, he definitely protests this one). Scully also remembers shooting at the kid and missing, then running after him and leaving the woozy Mulder behind. Next thing she knew, her delirious partner was staking the kid in the forest. Case closed.
Mulder’s version is similar, but different. First off, he remembers the sheriff less as handsome and more as a hick with an overbite. He also remembers himself as way less snappish and way more open to Scully’s input, nerdily outlining all of the world’s vampire lore before sheepishly acknowledging that of course she could be right. This too is a fine play on our least favorite parts of Scully—the way she never seems to want to listen to him, even when it’s pretty clear that he knows his stuff. She’s certainly got a fair bone to pick as far as Mulder’s communication skills go, but the man has done a fair amount of homework. Even if that homework is ridiculous.
The episode’s most absurd, slapstick scene sits pretty in Mulder’s version: the story of how he got so muddy. While staking out the town graveyard, a call comes in for the sheriff about an incident going down at the motor lodge. The men arrive to find an RV turning slow circles in the parking lot, the driver dead by neck puncture. They attempt to stop the vehicle first shooting out the tires, then Mulder grabs hold of the back of the thing and tries to drag it to a stop. It’s ridiculous but I love it, a clever nod to Mulder’s occasionally insane feats of athleticism, performed in the name of the truth.
The most critical difference between the agents’ stories is in their recollections of the pizza delivery boy’s attack. While Scully remembers shooting at the kid and missing, Mulder remembers her shooting and hitting the kid twice. Mulder turns out to be correct, and while the agents work on getting their stories straight, the kid rises off the slab and attacks the coroner who’s about to perform an autopsy on him. Skinner sends the agents back to investigate and they discover two important things. One, the sheriff doesn’t have an overbite. Two, everyone in town is a vampire. The sheriff included. And after these vampires have drugged the agents, they blow town, leaving nothing behind but an empty RV park and a couple of sheepish partners.
The episode’s conclusion supports both agents’ original theories. Mulder wins because there were definitely vampires. Scully wins because, as the sheriff explains, the pizza delivery boy has seen one too many monster movies and was acting out by putting on false teeth and imitating Dracula. It’s a sly encapsulation of the show’s appeal, an acknowledgement of how it both exploits and explodes legends. Darin Morgan’s episodes are often best remembered for their quirky trappings, but what he always did best was amplify the show’s inherent silliness. This episode does the same by reminding us just how unlikely this partnership is. Whether you think Mulder is brusque or brilliant, whether you think Scully is a killjoy or just cautious, “Bad Blood” makes it clear that neither would function properly without the other. And that’s funny, if you think about it.