Thu
Dec 8 2011 11:00am

Reopening The X-Files: “E.B.E.”

Season 1, Episode 17: “E.B.E.”
Original Airdate: February 18, 1994

“E.B.E.” is a solid, dependable, perfectly good, sometimes very good, borderline-unremarkable episode. It feels a lot like the sort of episode you’d show your friend who was kinda late getting into the show and she doesn’t want to waste her time watching the whole thing and is there anything that can kinda, give her like, the feel or whatever, just real quick? It hits the highlights of the myth arc thus far—government conspiracy, UFOs, alien reclamations, Mulder’s uncanny ability to always fall down while chasing things—and livens things up by feeding us a little more information about Deep Throat and introducing the three most adorable conspiracy theorists, The Lone Gunmen. Along the way, we learn some valuable lessons about the difference between lies and other lies, and also, we get to see Mulder fall down. But I think I said that.

So the way it is is that there’s something and it’s crashed somewhere, and there’s some radio interference, and a truck driver maybe sees a UFO. Mulder and Scully investigate, Scully cheerily spouting possibilities and maybe-abilities and Mulder nodding and ignoring her. He’s got two stopwatches, started at the same time, showing different times, and that counts as evidence of something. They talk to the truck driver, who has a cough that Scully immediately diagnoses as Gulf War Syndrome, because she’s a doctor. The driver claims to have never been in the Gulf, and right when they’re really getting somewhere with him about how he doesn’t know anything, the local police chief comes in and bust things up, in the way a local police chief does when he’s been got to. By Them.

At the bus station—wait, hold on, they’re at a bus station? I take back what I said about this being borderline-unremarkable. Mulder and Scully are at a bus station! To take a bus! The FBI is so thrifty! And Scully lends a lady her pen, which turns out to be a bad idea. Never lend a lady at a bus station your pen, Scully, did you learn nothing at Quantico? Because the pen turns out to be bugged, but Scully doesn’t figure that out until later, until after she’s met those three handsome champs of paranoia, The Lone Gunmen. Mulder calls them an “extreme government watchdog group,” but really they’re just all-purpose plot-advancement nerds, the kind your protagonists get to call whenever they need something “hacked” or “cracked” or what have you. They also make jokes, which we like. There’s Langly, who looks like Garth Algar. Byers, who wears a suit and rips up some of Scully’s money to prove that the government is tracking her. And Frohike, who correctly identifies Scully as “hot.” So glad to have you gentlemen on board.

Mulder proposes to the Gunmen that UFOs may cause Gulf War Syndrome, and the nerds laugh him out of the room. Scully sets about rubbing skeptical salt in the wound, but mid-harangue she discovers the bugged pen, and all hell breaks loose. You do not ever bug Scully, is something to learn from this episode. Because a bugged Scully does research, and lots of it. She learns that the truck driver was totally in the Gulf War, as a Black Beret, and also, that the truck he was driving was heavier than the manifest reported. Mulder meanwhile hits up his informant chum, Deep Throat, who chirps a little about the impending baseball season before handing Mulder a transcript of an intercepted Iraqi radio transmission wherein an Iraqi pilot shoots down a UFO, a UFO that was then recovered by the army. Mulder figures whatever was recovered was in that truck. Mulder further figures that it is super-annoying that people keep trying to keep him from the truth, and thank goodness he’s got this trustworthy informant, am I right?

At this point Scully calls him on this, pointing out that there’s no way to know if this informant is legit or not. Mulder argues that Deep Throat has never lied to him; Scully argues that Mulder is the only person she trusts. Which I guess is not so much an argument as a very nice thing to say. Mulder sticks to what he sticks to, though, and doesn’t even seem super-bothered to come home and find Deep Throat sitting in his apartment, bearing a new trustworthy informant gift: a photo of a UFO. Despite the fact that an at-home visit is entirely out of character for this relationship, Mulder rolls with it, and goes so far as to earnestly thank the man for going to so much trouble. So probably none of us are surprised when Scully takes half a look at the photo and declares it a fake.

The episode’s greatest strength in here, is forcing Mulder to ask a question he ought to have asked previously and repeatedly. What did he do to rate an informant, anyway, and how much can he trust that informant? Isn’t it plausible, Mr. Mulder, that in a conspiracy that is apparently as knotty and wild as you think it is, isn’t it plausible that someone might think to deliver unto you a campaign of misinformation and lies? The fact that Mulder has trusted Deep Throat this long speaks to a vulnerability, one that Scully succinctly names: “Whereas I can respect and admire your passion,” she says, “They will use it against you.” 

And for once Mulder listens, and he goes back to Deep Throat and asks why, and Deep Throat doesn’t blink at all, which is just as bewildering as anything, at least until he declares that there are “some truths that people are just not ready to know.” This to me has always been one of the show’s creepiest recurring themes, the one that makes the government conspiracy the most plausible. Sure, there are men who want power, and knowledge, and who will use what they can to climb that ladder. But more insidious are these, the men like Deep Throat, the ones who perhaps have a shred of well-meant in them but also who believe in lies as a form of protection. In government as a wall. Is it power that corrupts, or is it condescension?

Thus disillusioned, Mulder pushes onward. He and Scully utilize some sneaky methods to get themselves across the country, unfollowed, in order to track the truck with the thing that might be inside. When they do find the truck, they’re pushed off the road by bright lights and hail and electricity and something. They come to and find the truck open and abandoned; inside, behind some boxes, is an empty gurney. Mulder pulls out his stopwatches, finds them both ticking at identical speeds, and declares the whole thing a hoax. They press on and eventually find a heavily-guarded government facility disguised as a power plant. Langly hacks them some credentials (good nerd) and they walk around for about thirty seconds before their cover is blown. Scully throws her hands up and Mulder runs, runs, runs into a room and trips over a chain and comes up limping, and is about to look at the big glowing red window when he is stopped by... when he is stopped by... when he is stopped by—

Did you guess it? Yeah, Deep Throat. Who calls off the guns and gives Mulder a speech about how once upon a time, after World War II, all the governments met and agreed that if aliens ever stopped by, they’d kill ‘em. Deep Throat claims to be “one of three men” who’s killed one, and tells a decently sad but mostly overwrought story about having to execute an alien while working for the C.I.A. in Vietnam. And Mulder, finally, doesn’t ask questions. Just stares at this man and says, “I’m wondering which lie to believe.” And as Deep Throat walks off, Mulder is joined by Scully, who doesn’t say anything at all.

 

Next week: “Tooms”


Meghan Deans thinks it’s remotely plausible that someone might think you’re hot. She has a Tumblr and is @meghandrrns.

9 comments
Ashley McGee
1. AshleyMcGee
Not one of my favorite episodes. Of course, to me, the whole conspiracy arch is unnerving and kind of depressing. Actually, the show itself is kind of depressing. I love it anyway, though.

Yay for the Lone Gunmen! Langly, I'm still your biggest fan!
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
The Lone Gunmen!

In this episode it did seem that Mulder has to face some truths that he would rather leave out there. He really wanted Deep Throat to be his nice informant but now, the conspiracy deepens.
Amasea
3. Amasea
I don't think EBE is anyone's favorite episode (except perhaps those who hail the appearance of the Lone Gunmen -- and it is certainly remotely plausible someone might find Scully hot, and nice to have someone finally come out and say so).

I think it's important, that last line of Mulder's. His continued betrayal by those he (as you noted, unreasonably) trusts leads us back to the M&S exchange about trust earlier.
Honestly, at this point in the series, I was more confused by Scully's statement that Mulder is the only one she trusts. She hasn't been through enough yet to have lost what I imagine to be an ingrained respect for authority (military family background, physician hierarchies, her motivations for joining government law enforcement, etc) that carries with it a certain amount of trust.
My explanation is that, right now, she doesn't really mean it. She just doesn't want Mulder to trust Deep Throat. But it does set the situation up for Mulder to fall out of trust with everyone else, as M&S's builds.
Ian Tregillis
4. ITregillis
I wouldn't say this is my all-time favorite episode, but I happen to like it quite a bit. (In spite of the issues like Mulder's strange willingness to trust DT, which is a pretty fair criticism.) Mostly I'm fond of this episode for introducing the Lone Gunmen, but I liked the bit with the pen, too, and how it deepened the scope of the conspiracy.

And I like that the final scene of this episode gets a callback in season 4, in the episode Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.
Amasea
5. Pendard
The X-Files took a big step forward in the second season when the writers changed (retconned, really) things so that the government was collaborating with the aliens rather than just covering up their existence. "E.B.E." just isn't different enough from "Deep Throat" or "Fallen Angel" to really be interesting.
Cait Glasson
6. CaitieCat
A decent episode, but like a few of you, the conspiracy always left me cold. I've worked for government, in uniform and out, and I'd have a hard time believing they could manufacture a good conspiracy to keep quiet about a great latte place they'd found, let alone anything as big as this. I just never got enough traction to keep my disbelief suspended.

That said, Lone Gunmen! Yay!

Also, Scully might reasonably be said to be hot? Holy cats, this troper says "Um, most hottestest on TV of 90s?" :D
Amasea
7. Lsana
@6,

One of my favorite discussions on conspiracies began, "Anyone who has actually been part of a conspiracy on the order of, say, planning a surprise birthday party, knows that they never hold together. Someone always spills the beans." I've got to imagine that goes about triple for government conspiracies.

Still, if we're going to accept the existance of aliens, and guys who can squeeze through drains, and evil shadows that cause you to dissolve when you touch them, I guess it isn't that much more of a stretch to accept the idea of a competent government conspiracy.
Meghan Deans
8. Meghan
Amasea, totally agree with you about Scully. She has a handful of lines like that in S1, so obviously it was a priority for the writers to establish that sentiment firmly--Scully may not believe everything they encounter, but she does trust Mulder. Unfortunately, proclamations like the one in this episode come off a little hamfisty.
Amasea
9. cersei
I don't think that they are taking a bus. Rather, they've just turned in their rental car and are taking the shuttle to the airport terminal to return to DC.

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