Season 9, Episode 15: “Jump the Shark”
Original Airdate: April 21, 2002
If you, like me, did not watch The Lone Gunmen—the X-Files spin-off starring our favorite hacker/comic-relief trio—then you, like me, might find “Jump the Shark” to be both baffling and disappointing. If you did watch The Lone Gunmen then I suspect you will find the episode to be simply disappointing. Perhaps the episode’s title is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or perhaps it’s just not a good idea to resolve your canceled show’s cliffhanger in the context of your almost-canceled show. (Did we learn nothing from “Millennium”?)(No, we didn’t.)
The first bad sign is that Morris Fletcher is back. Not that we hate Fletcher or anything, Fletcher is fine, but using Fletcher here over-complicates an episode that is already going to be pretty complicated for folks who skipped the spin-off. Apparently, Fletcher appeared on an episode of The Lone Gunmen and made enemies of the trio by using them to track down their hot lady hacker frienemy, Yves Adele Harlow. Fletcher has moved on from being a shifty Man in Black to being a shifty freelancer with former-Man in Black knowledge. He’s been hired to recover a UFO for a “foreign billionaire,” except he’s lying about being able to do that, and the foreign billionaire responds by blowing up his boat.
Fletcher survives the explosion and gets dumped at a Coast Guard base, his former Area 51 employers none-too-happy with his current line of work. He somehow gets Reyes and Doggett to come visit him, promising them all sorts of conspiracy tales if they get him freed. They’re not interested, up until he says “Super Soldiers,” at which point they are very interested. Fletcher claims that he knows of one, and that he can deliver her, and that she is: Yves Adele Harlow.
And with that, Reyes and Doggett bring Fletcher by to the Lone Gunmen. They’re not happy to see Fletcher and they’re really not happy with his assertion that Yves is a Super Soldier. And yet, in spite of the fact that Fletcher previously used TLG to get at Yves, they agree to find her again? Because now also Doggett and Reyes are there? And neither Doggett nor Reyes thinks twice about it, in light of TLG’s previous experience with Fletcher? And then some pretty blond The Lone Gunmen-regular named Jimmy shows up and says that he thinks Yves—real name Lois Runtz—might actually have murdered someone?
Although in truth this episode has a pretty simple plot—let’s find this woman and find out if she’s a Super Soldier or if instead maybe she’s murdering people for a super-good reason—the scaffolding around the plot is weirdly dense, as though the episode itself had three writers. Hold up, it did. And not just any three writers, y’all, three X-Files stalwarts get credit: Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, and Frank Spotniz. The three wrote several Lone Gunmen episodes together, and maybe those were great, but this one feels by-committee. As with “Millennium” before it, “The Lone Gunmen” aches for simplification, for a concentration on the three men who made the spin-off possible in the first place.
Instead, we look for Yves/Lois. We learn that she was indeed murdering people for a Very Good Reason, reason being the people she was trying to kill were carrying virus-bombs, or something, something that would detonate and kill everyone in a six mile radius. The virus bombs were created by her father, a terrorist, and also the foreign billionaire who is employing Fletcher. Employing, present tense, because it turns out the whole business with the boat explosion was a Classic Fletcher Ruse, created entirely so that TLG would again track down Yves/Lois for him, and her father. Yves/Lois is not a Super Soldier, she does not even know what a Super Soldier is. All she knows is that there’s one man left with that virus-bomb, and he’s gonna go off real soon.
The Lone Gunmen are the ones who find virus-bomb-guy, and The Lone Gunmen are then the ones who save the five mile radius. They are broke, you see. Ever since Fletcher drove Yves/Lois away from them in the first place, and they spent all their money looking for her. Their paper is in trouble and they’ve had to hock all their equipment and now they have a chance to do something, as a team, and so they do. Frohike presses a button that activates fire doors, locking the three of them in a small corridor with the virus-bomb. The man dies, and so do the Gunmen.
They are given a funeral at Arlington (Skinner pulled some strings), and Scully is there. Fletcher is there too, and in spite of his double-crossing x2, no one seems mad at him at all. Scully gets the last, sentimental word (“they’re gone, but they live on through us all”), and that is that. I can only imagine that what Gilligan, Shiban, and Spotniz wanted was an honorable end for their men. And while the trio certainly dies an honorable death, and while a burial at Arlington is a wonderful touch, the honor of the rest of “Jump the Shark” seems a dubious at best.