Conduit

What I remembered most about this episode was the overhead shot of the papers forming Ruby’s face.  I’d forgotten so much else.
 
Early on the acting seemed so young and stilted from all involved, more so than in the last 2 episodes.  Perhaps because it had to do with exposition involving the Samantha Mulder case file, with Scully reciting what she knew to Blevin.  But even the scenes with Mulder and Scully traveling to Ruby’s home were as stiff as cardboard in a collar.
 
The capture above reflects how Mulder often gets physically close to Scully.  Slightly mocking her skepticsm, he mouths a sentence into her face.  The fact that he likes to do this tells us it’s remotely plausible that someone could think she’s hot even before Mulder actually says it.  When he gets up close and personal, Scully doesn’t exactly reciprocate, but she doesn’t pull away either.  She is not immune to his appeal, but doesn’t react to it.  
 
Blevin tells Scully that Mulder has booked them on a flight.  He hasn’t bothered to inform her of this.  He’s taking for granted that she’ll go where he decides he’ll go.  Rather than waiting until Never Again to  check such behavior on his part, she should have simply fold him that she wanted to be consulted before he booked flights for her, right there at the start.  It would have saved us all a lot of heart ache.  But she doesn’t address his dictatorial habits.  Instead, she focuses on the fact that she doesn’t think he has a case.  That’s almost inconsequential to him.  To him, that’s no reason why he should change their plans.  So they disagree, he remarks.  It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.   His statement is not adversarial and he doesn’t discard her feelings, because he doesn’t value her opinion.  Instead, his tone indicates that he anticipates and even welcomes the fact that she doesn’t agree with what he’s doing, but still looks forward to what their “journey” together will bring, and assumes that she will too, reasoning that as a scientist she should want to ask questions, just for the sake of it.  Impertinent questions may uncover pertinent facts.  But Scully isn’t interested in facts, not even scientific ones, unless there’s a point to them.  Mulder already sees their differences as a plus in their dynamic.  Scully likes him and, I suspect, already likes being with him, but she doesn’t relish the discord and sparring, doesn’t seek it for sport.  I don’t think she gets pleasure from it.  She enjoys the company, not the conflict.  She’s uneasy changing or expanding longheld precepts.
 
When Blevin questioned Muderl’s interest in a case that wasn’t a case, Scully’s comment that the conduct was strange, “even for Mulder,” was surprising.  Certainly not something that an older Scully would say to anyone other than an intimate like Skinner or the LGM.  She doesn’t blurt out everything Mulder has told her though, not until Blevin assures her it is not a breach of confidence, since Mulder opened a file on his sister’s case himself.   Well, if Blevn has the file and Scully already knows (and can read the file), why must she tell Blevin what she knows?  Her recitation sounds unnatural, but it also hints of betrayal that’s uneasy to watch.  Though perhaps it sets the stage for Scully to tell NSA where Mulder got the “document” from later.
 
As the agents go to Ruby’s house, I’m struck by how big the purse or brief case that Scully is carrying is.  Glad she ditched bags like that later on, because considering their need to move quickly in some circumstances, it’s impractical.  Of course, with Gillian‘s pregnancy, they were probably looking for camouflage. 
 
As Kevin derives his drawing messages from the snowy tv screen, I think of Wetwired.  There, the government was doing the programming.  This time the aliens are, presumably, telling the boy conduit where his sister is.  Having been exposed to them during the abduction, he can communicate.  Of course, maybe the messages are coming both from the government and the aliens.  Perfectly in keeping with the conspiratorial collaboration we will learn about in years to come.  Our nation’s defense secrets are intermingled with alien location information in encoded tv signals, because our government is no stranger to alien communications and location information.
 
When Blevin suggests that Mulder may be too personally involved to be objective about a case involving an abduction, Scully says she doesn’t think so.  But then when we (and she) see him fingering that picture of Ruby, it reminds me of Closure and his desperation to understand his own loss by retracing (if not reversing) someone else’s.  Truthfully, the way he fingers that photo borders on creepy and I think we’re lucky that the loss of his sister didn’t leave Mulder with an unnatural fetish for young girls!
 
I’m not sure why we had to see NSA wake Scully up first looking for Mulder.  But we did see her in bed, clock by her side (set up in motel rooms the same way it’s set up in her home), clothed in the standard pajamas.  I don’t think it’s wise for her to sleep with her gun half way across the room.  Anyone who broke in could get to it long before she could.
 
Mulder apparently sleeps without a shirt.  He refuses to tell them where he got the diagram.  I’m reading of Dreamland when Mulder is dragged out of the convenience store shouting, “Would I do this?”  Scully learned early on that Mulder doesn’t rat out the people who give them information.  Of course, Scully perturbs us here as much as she does Mulder.  If she didn’t know they would go after Kevin, her disclosure might have been understandable.  But it seems she could have guessed what would happen, because she’s not surprised.  She tells Mulder that Kevin might be a security threat.  Huh?  Certainly she can’t believe he has security information himself can she?  If she thinks it is being fed to him, doesn’t she have any desire to find out where he’s getting it from in a gentle way that won’t further traumatize a boy who has already lost his sister?  Scully can be insensitive to the people they encounter, but her seeming disregard to what happens to a child is a bit hard to swallow.
 
Furthermore, when we watch the scene play out as Kevin is separated from his mother, we don’t see her looking especially concerned or guilty.  It’s Mulder who has the angst as he fingers the room the NSA has destroyed in their search. 
 
Even though she doesn’t look repentent, I think Scully has learned a lesson because she doesn’t throw people under the bus as easily in future episodes.  She may voice suspicion about them to Mulder, but doesn’t let their superiors in on what they are doing so much.  That’s why it’s natural by the time we get to Dreamland that she’s so shocked at the way Mulder’s acting.  He’s the one who taught her to be secretive.
 
I marvel at how closely the dialogue in this episode resembles IWTB.  Is 1030 continuing a theme or just being hopelessly redundant.  “I know what you’re thinking.”  Mulder is determined to find the lost girl.  Scully tells him she knows why it’s so important to him.  He’s still trying to find his sister.  Words she will say again in 2008.  He tells her that she can come or don’t come.  “I’m not giving up.”   Of course, in IWTB, the overriding theme is “don’t give up.”  There, he doesn’t tell Scully to come with him.  He knows that she won’t, but in Conduit she still does.  Did Frank and Chris remember Conduit when they wrote IWTB?  Was it deliberate reinforcement of major points in the MSR or do they just repeat the same dialogue over and over again for lack of originality?
 
When the analyst shows them all the information that the boy’s coding contains, Scully recognizes the classical music piece immediately, which reminds me of the recital she’s going to in Fire.  We get a snippet of her interests outside of science.
 
When they are in the house that has just been ransacked by the NSA, they are rather estranged.  Mulder doesn’t stop talking to Scully — although I would have, if I thought she’d caused the boy to be taken from his mother and wasn’t even that sorry for having done so.  Still, there’s a quiet friction.  Looking out the window, Mulder sees the tarred roof of the RV.  He is the one who sees the tree tops have been burned when they are by the lake.  In one scene she tells him that he’s not looking at the big picture.  That’s why it’s fitting that she is the one who goes upstairs and looks down to identify Ruby’s face in the papers.  Finally, SHE is able to see the big picture.  Daniel Sackheim directed and it’s nice the way he used aerial shots to make a plot point.
 
As they are driving along, Scully has to ask where they are going.  She thought they were headed back to town.  Without asking her again, Mulder takes a different direction.  Of course, he does this in The Truth and she doesn’t mind, even though jail (and his death) await her should they get caught in that finale episode.
Mulder’s practice of just taking her along for the ride without asking is established in this episode.
 
Although Scully doesn’t actually take him anywhere, she does guide.  At the grave side, when she tells him not to disturb the crime scene, puts her hand out and says “Stop,” it’s very intimate, because he does stop.  He seems to ask her permission to continue, saying that he needs to know if it’s her.  Scully sighs, closes her eyes and draws back her restraining arm.  Mulder wouldn’t have continued if she hadn’t “let” him.  It’s like Paper Hearts (there she helps him dig the grave).  But it’s also like Closure, where he turns to her and silently asks if it’s ok to go forward, after she has expressed skepticism.
 
In the car Mulder tells Scully he used to play a game, closing his eyes before he entered his bedroom, thinking that one day he would open them and his sister would be there again.  She’d be back.  He’s still doing that today.  Scully doesn’t reach out to him.  She remains on her side of the car, soaking in his pain.  This is the beginning of what remains unsaid between them being more important than what is verbalized.
 
What Mulder says about thinking he will open his eyes one day and his sister will be there reminds me of when I first moved to California in 1987.  I went down to the parking space at my apartment complex and found my new car window had been smashed in.  I couldn’t believe it.  Every time I left and returned to the car, I half expected to find the window magically unbroken.  It would have seemed less unreal to me to have it repair itself than it did to see it smattered in the first place.  I was just 23 then.  That was the first minor taste I would have of dealing with things that could not be undone.  Of course, a car window is reparable.  Your brain knows that some things aren’t, but when you encounter finality for the first time, it’s not believable.  Tragedy seems illusory.  You’re so shocked that it happened in the first place, you would never question its unhappening.  More than loss or pain, grief is sometimes just a continous wait for the unhappen that never comes.
 
Mulder tells Darlene that some day Ruby will remember what happened, even if it’s only in dreams and then she will need to talk.  Again, I am reminded of Scully and the way she repressed what happened.  Initially.  Mulder would argue with the mother longer about telling the truth, but Scully reaches up and puts a hand on his shoulder.  She has to stretch high to reach his tall shoulder, but however attenuated, her grasp is enough to make him stop in  his tracks.  However light, her touch can steer or detain him.  We learn this in Milagro too, when just a light hand keeps him from going after Padgett.
 
Strange to go back and see Mulder in a church.  If it had been a scene in the case, he might end up there at the end, but “our” Mulder would never go to God with his pain, spontaneously.  Sure, he might end up there via Scully’s faith, but not on his own.  That is a path I think he turned away from long ago.  He wouldn’t go to a church even to assure himself, once again, that God is indifferent.  I wonder if this is a plot point that Carter would have changed later, after the characters were more established.  I would not say that Mulder is an atheist or an agnostic either way.  I’d just say that he doesn’t seek answers or solace from religion or he wouldn’t in 1993.  Maybe following William’s birth he might.
 
Fourth episode gives us a great overview of Mulder’s lasting torment and a great ending.  Scully listens to Mulder under hypnosis regression (as he will later sit on the couch and listen to her IN regression.   He says, he can’t see his sister, but he can hear her calling his name over and over and asking for help.  Just like Scully calls him on that answering machine message when she is abducted.  “Mulder, I need your help.”  I don’t know if it was clear to me the first time I saw this episode that the voice inside of his head wasn’t an alien force.  It wasn’t the mysterious “they” who ordered Ruby not to tell anyone of her experience.  Instead it was Mulder’s own voice saying it will be all right.  No harm will come to her and she’ll be back.  The doctor asks if he believes the voice.  Mulder says, “I want to believe.”  Miraculous use of that catch phrase.   Mulder didn’t start out wanting to believe in aliens or a conspiracy.   He only wanted to believe that the hurt would stop, the hole would be filled.  The wrong would be righted.  Scully listens to the tape from the past while present day Mulder cries.
 
 
 
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