Mar 8 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”

Season 3, Episode 4: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
Original Airdate: October 13, 1995

A man named Clyde Bruckman buys a bottle of Scotch, a lottery ticket, and a tabloid paper. He’s not a particularly unusual man. He lives in St. Louis. He sells insurance. He lives alone. He’s not a particularly unusual man except that he’s a little bit psychic. And even that part isn’t that unusual, at least not to him. It’s a nuisance, a curse that plagues him. In “Humbug,” writer Darin Morgan brought us to a town full of sideshow performers, men and women making a living off of their abnormalities. In “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” we meet a man who would sooner die than trade on his.

A fortune teller—a reader of tea leaves—has been murdered, her eyeballs and entrails left as fun surprises for the police. The police are unimpressed. They bring in an expert, a man with unorthodox measures. His name is the Stupendous Yappi, and he is a psychic. Maybe. They also bring in Mulder and Scully, but no one cares about them. Everyone cares about the Stupendous Yappi. He has an incredible eyebrows and he accuses Mulder of blocking him with his “negative energy.” Once Mulder has left the room, Mr. Yappi entertains the crowd. His predictions are nonspecific, but again, that eyebrow.

So then there’s Clyde Bruckman again, living his life. Attempting to sell insurance, but alarming the clients by telling them exactly how they will die. Attempting to throw out some lettuce but alarming himself by seeing a grotesque face in the leaves. Attempting to assist his elderly neighbor by taking out the trash but her dog is yapping at him. And then there’s a body. Oh god, there’s a body in the Dumpster, and it’s a fortune teller, another one, a Madame Zelma. We have met her before, she was in the cold open being attacked by a man with big beady eyes who wanted to know why it is that he is “doing things” that seem “out of character.” Now Madame Zelma is dead, in much the same manner as the tea-leaf reader.

Mulder and Scully talk to Clyde Bruckman and realize quickly that Clyde Bruckman knows more than Clyde Bruckman should know. He knows that Madame Zelma’s eyes were cut out and he knows that the entrails were taken. He knows all this despite not having disturbed the body all, despite the body having been face-down in the Dumpster. At this point perhaps they would think that he is the murderer and arrest him? But instead, for whatever reason, they take him to the scene of the tea-reader’s murder. There, Mulder asks him if there are “things” “that we can’t see” “about this crime.” At this point, Clyde Bruckman asks to see our agents’ badges, and who can blame him.

But Clyde Bruckman can see things that we cannot see about this crime, and they make him ill. He can see that the murderer feels as though he is a puppet, not in control of his own life. He can see that the murderer had sex with the victim, before the murder, and that it was consensual. He can see a grotesque face in one of the dolls the woman collects. He can also see that the woman will be found the next day in Glenview Lake, “by the fat little white Nazi stormtrooper.” And he’s right, sort of, if you turn your head and squint at the propane tank near Glenview Lake where her body is, indeed, found the next day.

Clyde Bruckman plays the lottery, and loses. Mulder visits him again, asks for his help. Clyde Bruckman agrees, although reluctantly, and in an interrogation room Mulder hands him a series of items, all owned by victims. Only Clyde Bruckman doesn’t get anything out of the objects, and he’s really being no help at all until Scully arrives with a clue, something about identical keychains on the victims, something about the keychain bearing an insignia to an investment firm owned by a man named Claude. And they are going to see Claude, except Clyde Bruckman knows something about Claude, and that is that Claude has been murdered, and his body is somewhere near a forest.

They take Clyde Bruckman with them, search for the body together, and it is worth mentioning, here, Clyde Bruckman’s origin story, which he offers to the agents while they search for the body. In 1959 Buddy Holly’s plane crashed, which did not bother Clyde Bruckman except that another passenger on the plane was the Big Bopper, and Clyde Bruckman had tickets to see him. The Big Bopper earned a spot on that plane with a coin toss, and Clyde Bruckman became so obsessed with that, he said, with the randomness, with the chance, that he gradually became capable of seeing everyone’s death. Clyde Bruckman’s power was gained through obsession, in the manner of a practice. A skill, perhaps, not a power at all, except a skill that he cannot seem to lose. A practice he cannot fall out of. And then they find Claude’s body, finally, buried in the mud underneath the wheels of their rental car.

So now they have Claude, and a fiber from his body, and once Mulder has bribed Clyde Bruckman by offering to buy an insurance policy from him, Clyde Bruckman tells them that the murderer will kill more people before he is caught. He also believes he is psychic, and in fact has had a vision of Mulder chasing him, then stepping in a banana cream pie, then being killed by the killer. With a knife. Mulder is impressed, all of this off a tiny fiber? But in fact the killer sent Clyde Bruckman a letter, telling him he plans to kill him, telling him to say hello to the FBI agents, and so they take Clyde Bruckman into protective custody at a hotel. And the killer kills again, a tarot card reader this time.

Scully takes first shift with Clyde Bruckman and the two talk, sweetly, about her future. He says he sees them in bed together, with her holding his hand and him crying. He also asks if she would like to know how she would die. She says all right. He says, “You don’t.” Then Mulder is there to take over, and Clyde Bruckman tells him a story, too, only it’s less sweet, instead it’s about a dream he had, one in which he realizes he is dead, and at peace. On the third shift, Clyde Bruckman is left with an FBI agent who smokes and tells bad jokes and that’s about it. A bellhop arrives with some room service, only it’s not just any bellhop, it’s the killer. We know him. And he looks at Clyde Bruckman, and Clyde Bruckman looks at him, and the two of them know each other, and all of a sudden. They sit together and the killer asks why it is that he does what he does. And Clyde Bruckman says, “You do the things you do because you’re a homicidal maniac.” Then the killer kills the FBI agent who smokes and tells bad jokes.

Mulder and Scully are at a crime scene, the tarot card reader, and they pick off another strand of that strange fiber, and Scully realizes, all of a sudden, who the killer is. She’d spotted him at every crime scene, and she’d seen him in the hallway of the hotel, and now it’s come together in that way that things can, for those of us who are not psychic at all. They return to the hotel and pursue him. Mulder chases him to the hotel kitchen, as in the scene foretold by Clyde Bruckman. Except this time, the killer does not kill Mulder, because Scully is there, gun raised, and she shoots the killer dead. “How’d you know where to find us?” asks Mulder. “I didn’t,” says Scully. “I got on the service elevator by mistake.”

They go to Clyde Bruckman’s apartment and find his neighbor’s yappy dog outside. There is a note, too, from Clyde Bruckman, asking if Scully would like the dog. Informing her that the dog is well-behaved, despite the fact that he may have nipped a bit at his previous owner’s dead body, but it couldn’t be helped. Inside the apartment they find Clyde Bruckman, dead by pills and suffocation. Scully sits on the bed, and holds his hand, and there is a drop of water on his face, as though he might be crying after all.

Next week: “Nisei”/“731”


Meghan Deans didn’t mean to give off any negative energy. She Tumbls and is @meghandrrns.

Scot Taylor
1. flapdragon
Why doesn't this rewatch include ratings? This episode, along with "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," is one of the absolute TRIUMPHS of the series.
Ian Tregillis
2. ITregillis
What an utterly fantastic episode. Peter Boyle was terrific as Clyde Bruckman. And I also love that they bring back The Stupendous Yappi in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space."

The "homicidal maniac" line is one of my favorite X-Files bits.
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
That "homicidal maniac" is a great line. This was a really good episode. It has a basically normal person (Claude) caught up because of his gift/power/ability. Mostly he doesn't let it effect him but of course it does. Very well told and acted.
5. wiredog
Funny as all heck, too. Spoiler: IIRC, he asked Mulder if Mulder had ever heard of autoerotic asphyxiation. The look on Mulder's face...
6. wiredog
So much for hiding the spoiler text with font colors...
Joe Romano
7. Drunes
Although I enjoyed the X Files, I wasn't really a regular watcher of the series. Nonetheless, I've always thought this one of the best espisodes. Of course, Peter Boyle is always a delight to watch -- no matter what he does.
8. sofrina
didn't mulder do a double-take and say, "why you lookin' at me?!"
Ian Tregillis
9. ITregillis
Not to flaunt my appalling ignorance, but I've never understood Clyde's line to Scully, "You don't." Clearly I missed something along the line, either here or in later seasons. (I missed all of the final season.)

A stupid question, I'm sure, but is this explained later?
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
@9:I think it just means that while lots of people say they would like to know the circumstances of their death, most probably don't. I am guessing he's told various people and the effects have not been good.
Ian Tregillis
11. ITregillis
shalter @ 10:

Ahhh... maybe my problem is that I've always heard the line with a completely different connotation. I thought he was saying, in essence, "Here's something weird -- I don't see you dying."

Obviously, your explanation is WAY easier to accept :)
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
@11:Although, that explanation is way cooler. :-)
13. StrongDreams
@9, 10, 11, 12
According Wikipedia (yeah, I know), X-files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz at one point claimed that this was intended to be the start of an arc subplot in which Scully was immortal. It seems they did not follow up on this very much, and closed it with the 6th season episode Tithonis in which Scully is shot and brought back to life.
Ian Tregillis
14. ITregillis
Thanks! I'm glad to know this. I always thought there was something funny about that line. I had wondered if it referred to genetic material taken from her during her "Duane Barry" disappearance-- like the continuation of her germline or something. Yeah, it's a stretch...
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
@13:Well, cool--I like the thought of an immortal Scully. The line is much better now.
It's kind of like when Lazurus Long got a reading from the life-line guy.
Joe Romano
16. Drunes
Why Clyde Bruckman said "I don't see you dying" to Scully. I always thought it meant he knew he was going to die before she did and wouldn't be around when she did. Too simple?
Eli Bishop
17. EliBishop
@13 Not sure what you mean about "Tithonus" closing the issue. It always seemed to me that you could interpret that episode as providing a reason that Scully will in fact live forever. But maybe we should wait till Meghan gets to that one...
18. StrongDreams
I didn't mean that Tithonus closed as in deleted the issue. I meant that it was dealt with or followed up in that episode. The word Wikipedia uses is "bookended." I read that to mean, that they revisited the thread they had dropped, and tried to give the issue some closure.
19. Eugene R.
I love the scene with the keychain:

Scully: ... and the company is owned by a man named ...
Bruckman: Claude Dukenfield. Age 43. 316 Roundview Lane. Divorced, with two children. Makes about 87,000 a year. Non-smoker.
Mulder: You got all that information just by handling that keychain?
Bruckman: Oh, no. I sold him a policy a couple of months ago. Just a coincidence.

I can forgive Peter Boyle for 1,000 seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond for just this one episode of X-Files.

And Darin Morgan is a scriptwriting god.
20. melisssa
fidnanyone else notice that sully didn't get er dog until episode 4 of season 3 but, in episode 2 of season 3 she was washing it?

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