False Memories: The X-Files S11x4: “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” Review

January 27, 2018 at 2:01 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This review contains major spoilers of The X-Files season 11. Read at your own risk!

 

This episode felt like a self-parody of The X-Files in its entirety as it poked fun of the things that the show were famous for. It’s light and entertaining at best, given that it’s written by X-Files veteran Darin Morgan – the same writer who gave us classic comedic episodes like “Small Potatoes” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.”

However, there wasn’t anything substantial in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” in terms of plot. There was no crime for Mulder and Scully to solve; no UFO sighting to investigate. There was just this jittery guy named Reggie Something who asked Mulder to help him prove that he’s real. Reggie claimed that he used to work with Mulder and Scully but that “they” (a shadowy “group”) erased the duo’s memories so Mulder and Scully couldn’t remember him. According to him, there’s a government conspiracy that were trying to erase him from people’s memories.

The episode took on the popular Mandela Effect theory, in which groups of people misremember the same things. The theory is relatively new and is a popular Internet urban legend.

At first Mulder regarded Reggie as crazy during their first secret rendezvous. Reggie tried to prove his case by saying that Mulder’s favorite episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Lost Martian” never existed. It was just a false memory. Mulder tried to search for the episode in his collection of VHS tapes to prove him wrong but to no avail. Reggie also reached out to Scully and handed her a box of Goop-O ABC – her favorite childhood jelly. But according to Scully, when she tried to find it in stores over the years, people often told her there was no such thing and that she must be looking for Jell-O 123 instead.

Later in the episode, Mulder and Scully met with Reggie in the parking garage where most of their interactions happened. Reggie shared more of his discoveries about a cover-up by “they” on altered memories. When Mulder suggested that he’s experiencing the Mandela Effect theory, Reggie corrected him and claimed that the term was actually called Mengele Effect. He also revealed the real identity of “they.” It turned out that a guy named Dr. They was the mastermind of the Mengele Effect. Apparently, Dr. They altered people’s memories years ago that’s why they couldn’t even remember him.

But Mulder and Scully were not buying Reggie’s story so he dropped the ultimate bomb on them: he was part of the X-Files division in the FBI. Mulder and Scully were shocked of course.

Photo credit: x-files.wikia.com 

Now the episode took the comedy in the story further by cutting the scene midway and showing The X-Files’ opening credits, but this time with Reggie in it. Not only that, the succeeding scenes showed Reggie inserted into scenes taken from the show’s classic episodes such as the Pilot, “Tooms,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Home,” and “Small Potatoes.” I found this rather self-indulgent and overkill (Darin Morgan wrote two of these episodes and also guest-starred in one) but most fans thought it was a funny homage to the show.

When a frustrated Mulder tried to make sense of what Reggie said, he suddenly got a call from Dr. They himself who decided to show up and meet him at a public place. Reggie’s claims about Dr. They were validated when the doctor himself admitted to Mulder about masterminding the Mengele Effect and twisting the facts. To what end? Apparently, to control the future.

Photo credit: bloody-disgusting.com

The episode got a bit serious when Mulder and Dr. They had a deep conversation about what constitutes truth when there’s a proliferation of fake news in this day and age. Dr. They claimed that no matter if people are presented with the truth, they’re still left with a choice whether to believe it or not. People choose what they want to believe.

Does this mean that Reggie was right about everything all along? Not exactly. Mulder and Scully later found out that Reggie was actually a former government employee who served under various agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA). Apparently, Reggie had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. He only knew about Mulder and Scully and the X-Files division because he illegally wiretapped them in their office. In short, Reggie was mentally ill before he escaped from the hospital and made contact with Mulder. He was never a part of the X-Files division.

But what I don’t get here is that if Reggie’s claims were just a product of his mentally unstable condition, then where did Dr. They factor in all of this? Mulder had a personal interaction with the doctor himself so there might be some kind of truth in what Reggie said. Unless Dr. They was a mental patient himself in the same hospital as Reggie and escaped with him. That could explain it. As for Skinner knowing Reggie, I really think he could’ve met him through his various interactions with the other agencies in the government.

What I didn’t like about the episode was the ending where Reggie recounted his “last case” together with Mulder and Scully. The “last case” involved a UFO landing on Earth in which Mulder, Scully and Reggie had an encounter with the alien. It was all rather silly for me and there was too much Trump reference in the episode in general.

Photo credit: imdb.com

I didn’t love “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” but I didn’t hate it either. I guess it wasn’t just as funny as season 10’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” or Morgan’s episodes in previous seasons.

But I love what Scully said in the end when she said, “I want to remember how it was.” For me, I’d like to remember the show how it was:  just Mulder and Scully solving paranormal cases together – no Reggie in the picture.

Side Notes

  • I loved the opening scene where Mulder just arrived from “squatchin’”.
  • Mulder got indignant when Scully assumed he confused The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits. I loved The Outer Limits by the way.
  • That scene of Mulder’s head on an eight-year-old boy’s body — fantastic shot.
  • Mulder’s idea of a date was a stake out in a parking garage. Oh come on Mulder, you can do better than that!
  • Spotnitz Sanitarium, the name written at the back of the ambulance – an obvious shoutout to fellow X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz.

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