I always had fond memories of this episode, but I see now that I only recalled snapshots of it, rather than fully appreciating it’s exploration of all the themes that propelled this character-fueled show so intensely for 9 years, then quietly re-introduced themselves in 2008’s I Want to Believe.
I’m beginning to realize that the foundation of this show was cemented so strongly in its first weeks of existence, that it’s no surprise that the series still holds up today. The surprise would be if anything else could hold a candle to it.
First the snapshots: I’d always remembered Scully saying to Mulder, “or I’ll hurt you like that beast woman!” But I didn’t remember what she said it in response to. I thought her remark had something to do with him returning the rental car. I just thought it was cute and jokingly suggested that she knew she’d like the power to somehow keep him in line.
I remembered Mulder calling Scully while she was on the date. Shippers bring up this date a lot in their discussions and the Noromos (non-romantics) claim that it’s all in the imagination. But c’mon guys! Re-watching the show makes it clear that Chris Carter left nothing to the imagination. He is juxtaposing Mulder and Scully
romantically and there’s no two ways about it. Carter has sometimes suggested that there was something lofty about Mulder and Scully’s love, that it was more intellectual than romantic. That’s bologna. It’s everything that’s romantic, except
for the sex. And perhaps I shouldn’t even insert that exception. Maybe, TXF does nothing, if not show how unromantic sex, without more, sex really is.
I always say that TXF created a deep love the hard way, without resorting to the physical shorthand that exists in so much fiction. It takes away the clinches, kisses, and flowery words (which may or may not be genuine) and expresses feeling in small moments and gestures, which go unacknowledged, but not unnoticed. That’s never truer than in this entry, where Mulder and Scully begin to regularly display the loyalty, understanding, trust, interdependence and companionship that marks great love, next to which all else becomes insignificant. It’s not that sex is unimportant, it’s just unimportant in comparison to the rest.
The last memory snapshot I had from this episode was the recollection of how in awe of the “beast” Mulder was. Any fear he had for his life fled, in respect for the unadulterated proof she presented about man and nature. She revealed evolution for both the lie and truth, myth and danger, it is. We haven’t evolved — or have evolved only enough to destroy.
Anyway, as I watched Jersey Devil again, it became clear that my vague memories did not do it justice.
We see Scully walking through FBI corridors, pasts desks, co-workers and bustling activity to get to their office. It’s funny how much more isolated that basement area, and its inhabitants, were to become in later years. They were no longer just down the hall. They slid a world away. Out of reach of everything else.
It’s curious that it’s Scully who tells Mulder about the Atlantic City investigation. It wasn’t already on his radar, but the Jersey Devil was.
She comes upon him with his Playboy magazine. I think this is one of the first “porn” jokes we get about Mulder. She is unphased, never begrudges him this indulgence. She only smirks. Mulder is not ashamed. He doesn’t scurry to hide the fold out and makes an offhand joke. He reads them. Reads them in the office, with Scully’s knowledge, but (thankfully) not in her presence. I never minded such proclivities on Mulder’s part until much later on, with First Person Shooter
. I like to think his over-the-top reaction to Afterglow was, in part, aimed at Scully. Intended to let her know he wanted to explore the sexual desire they touched upon in Fight the Future
. Of course, I also want to think that his “not now” in WOTC was also more reflective of his feelings towards Scully than for Dr. Bambi. I’m a dreamer that way.
At any rate, Mulder’s prurient literary interests are exposed in Jersey Devil to emphasize the fact that he has no social life.
It’s odd to see Mulder stopping (twice) at the desk to “requisition” a rental car. Although, their cars, who drives, who has the keys, who puts in the gas (Dreamland), is a recurring them throughout the series and also plays a part in IWTB
, when Scully points out that it was her car Muldeer was driving when he overturned. Clearly, he took it without her consent and later apologizes to her for wrecking it, when she saves his life. The car comes to represent control and the act of sharing it, as is charmingly shown in Fight the Future, when Mulder splits the difference and drives straight ahead, rather than right or left. Willing compromise works so much better than: “Sure, fine, whatever.”
How amusing when Mulder uses Scully’s medical credentials as their excuse for being in Atlantic City investigating a death over which the FBI has no credentials. “Agent Scully
thought she might have a look.” He charges her with his own (misplaced) curiousity, much as he does in Arcadia when he tells his neighbors that “Laura” loves the paranormal.
When they’re told they have no business on the case, Scully agrees and tells Mulder she has to be back in D.C. Of course, this won’t be the last time she tells him that, but usually she has to get back for more important matters (like hearings before Blythe Danner). This time her presence is required at a social event. Does she have a date, Mulder asks. Why is that: (1) any of his business, and (2) the first thing that pops into his mind. Why not ask her something more open-ended, like what does she have to get back to do. This specific dating question tells me that Mulder wants to know about his new partner’s love life. Does she have one? Does she want one? Is she actively pursuing it.
She tells Mulder it’s not a date. It’s her god son’s birthday party. Neither of them seems particularly self-conscious about this conversation, but that won’t be true of the follow up.
I remembered that Stevie went to a child’s birthday party, but I didn’t know it was for her god son. So, she not only had friends before. She had close friends. Best friends. Mulder suggests that they get a hotel, see a floor show, and put some coins in a slot. He wants to stay and investigate, but puts the suggestion in the form of a recreational invite. She ignores the recreation part. We soon learn, she sees Mulder as a man obsessed with his job, to the exclusion of all else. So, when he says words that are suggestive of other things, she ignores him. Yet, I don’t think he was ever just joking. From the start, he was putting out part joke, part feeler. It took years for Scully to “get” the feeler. Even as late as the Millenium kiss, I don’t think she thought he meant it that way. I’m beginning to realize how clear it always was that he did.
When Scully says she’s not up for a New Jersey stay, Mulder tosses the car keys to her. Needlessly risking the veneer on the top of the rental car to skip them across. That’s his impolite way of telling her to drive back without him. She protests at taking a three hour drive back alone, in congested Friday night traffic. He shrugs. Not his concern. This behavior is what earned Mulder the nickname “punk.” I see things like this and could kick myself for feeling sorry for him, when she gives him the cold freeze in Never Again, Milagro and All Things. I forget how long and how often he has needed to be told he is a jerk. Of course, Mulder’s brush offs are different than Scully’s. First of all, when he’s inconsiderate, it’s nothing personal. We know at heart he greatly considers her. Secondly, when he brushes her off, it’s usually because he thinks that she can take care of herself while someone else’s life — or just life, in general, is at stake if he doesn’t help out (as in IWTB). Conversely, on the rare occasions when Scully “ditches” Mulder, it’s usually more personal. It’s the result of resentment, not distraction. She does it to take a stand against the pull and hold he has on her. This is not true in En Ami, but is at work most of the other times. In Jersey Devil, we see that pull still taking form.
At the friend’s party, we see a Scully help a boy in an ape mask up off the floor. She leans down over him the very same way she does to Mulder later in the episode. We see the boy in Mulder then. She asks the child if he hurt himself, but tells Mulder when he’s been hurt. She sees Mulder’s pain when Mulder doesn’t and her instinctive need to heal it might just be primal. Scully’s friend tells her she should be a mother. Scully hasn’t thought of it. She doesn’t feel maternal (yet), even though her friend observes that she’s great with kids. Although, Scully will later tell Daniel she wants what she should want at that stage in her life, in 1993, she’s not feeling those innate needs that society might expect of her. She doesn’t think she’s cut out for motherhood. The chaos of domesticity seems more tiring for her than the FBI. Her friend says that she needs a man to have children and Scully does not reject the notion. The friend suggests the guy she works with as a candidate, because Scully did say that Mulder was cute. “Mulder?” Scully asks in surprise. “He’s a jerk,” she says immediately, but stops herself just as quickly and more accurately states that he’s obsessed with his job.
I think that “jerk” is what sprang most quickly from her mouth, because she was still feeling that long drive home alone from New Jersey. But even in her exasperation, she sees beyond Mulder’s surface behavior and doesn’t discount him. Of course, not to be too girly, but what’s most important about this conversation is that Scully thought Muder was cute! That was the first impression she had of him, which she quickly passed on to her girlfriend. Later, we find that Mulder also thinks Scully is attractive (Irresistible). It’s nice to know that they are not unaware of each other’s physical qualities. This is not a case of them never seeing each other in that light. They did, but . . . well, there was always that “but.”
When Scully opens the door to a potential suitor, it’s not clear whether she’s attracted to him herself or if she’s just giving in to her friend’s matchmaking endeavors.
I will note that whether Scully would have liked the man on his own terms or not, she seems entirely unimpressed by the fact that he keeps pushing his kid. He suggests that they go out with the kids two different times and Scully never reacts with enthusiasm. In fact, at the end of the show, when she answers his phone call pleasantly, I get the impression that he may have fared better with her, if he’d just asked for a date, rather than a date with two tots in tow. She may want motherhood eventually, but doesn’t seem interested in sharing a parenting job with some random guy. This makes the Home question she later poses to Mulder about his family genes even more pointed — not to mention the ultimate Per Manum request She doesn’t simply want to be a mother. She wants to be a mother to Mulder’s children.
Interesting to hear Scully say that motherhood is not for her, while it’s clear that a newly pregnant Gillian is gaining more weight every minute.
Returning to the Jersey Devil, Mulder calls Scully from the drunk tape. Since she is trying to be discreet, I’m not sure why Scully announces he’s in a drunk tank to everyone at headquarters. She hears hacking in the background and Mulder says it’s someone being sick. It reminds me of Chimera when he is enjoying a delectable home cooked meal and explaining that he doesn’t have a significant other in the “traditional” sense, while Scully is at work on a stake out watching fraternity brothers vomit.
Once Mulder is released from jail, Scully needles him and he asks if she is going to rag on him or get him something to eat. The way it’s phrased, the way Mulder is asking Scully to nurture him, is poignant to me, especially when compared with the way she helped the little boy at the party, way the Jersey Devil was protecting its young, and the way Mulder’s perception of the case seemed to changed when he realized that one of the “beasts” was female. In Home, he tells Scully that he had never thought of her as a mother before. Yet there are themes of maternity and feminitity floating around in Jersey Devil that are not unrelated to Mulder’s keen interest in Scully’s love life.
Scully duly takes Mulder to get some grub, which he chows down indelicately. Unshaven, hair amiss, with bits of egg hanging from his mouth. Compared to the fancy dinner Scully enjoys on her date, there’s nothing attractive about the picture Mulder presents. His sloppiness here reminds me of the way he was brushing his teeth in front of her in Milagro. They had a “married too long” ease with each other that only seems undesirable at first glance. Probing deeper, it bespeaks an unspoken comfort level and a familiarity that bred all but contempt.
Mulder again tells Scully — apparently more interested in his plate than in her — that he has a hotel room that he’s still paying for. He is asking her to stay and investigate — or at least that’s what she hears. I don’t know why he keeps making the request in the form of a hotel. And he doesn’t even mention hotel rooms, plural. He just talks about one hotel. In no way do I think Mulder is propositioning Scully here. But I do think his wording reveals his appreciation for the time they spend with each other out of the field. The cozy motel room chat they had in The Pilot? I think Mulder liked that. In Detour, Scully asks Mulder if he wants to open a bottle of wine, but he is too intent on the tree monster to take her up on it. I don’t think a bottle of wine would have been out of the question, if she’s stayed in Jersey. But she can’t. Why not? Another birthday party? No, this time it is a date. Scully tells him this almost proudly. When he asks her if she can break that date, he’s somewhat shy. He’s not just talking without thinking. This time he is self-conscious. Basically, he’s saying, “Will you break your date to stay with me?” Apparently, men expect something if you buy them dinner, too. Scully demurs. Unlike Mulder, she has a life. She says. He laughs and says he has a life. This humor, the teasing and smiles between them . . . yeah, that’s how the chemistry rumors started. Oh, it’s there in many other series. The couples flirt or they flirt and fight. Mulder and Scully don’t really do either. Sure, they argue, but not provocatively. What they do is draw such meaning out of being with each other that you just never want them apart.
I think this episode may be the first stop on Scully’s never-ending quest for a “normal life.” She’s already aware that the nature of her work (and the single-mindedness of her partner) causes the exclusion of all else and she’s trying to find some sort of balance, before the job absorbs her completely. It will soon be too late for that.
Discussing his encounter with the beast, Mulder says that he thinks the Jersey Devil sensed him. Scully sniffs and says she doesn’t doubt it, suggesting that he smells (reminds me of how he tells her that she stinks in WOTC). He says that the beast probably felt threatened by him and she interjects that there he goes ascribing human emotion to an unknown creature. While this might seem like an insult to the leaps Mulder makes, Mulder hears something else. Her comments mean that Scully believes him. She says she believes he saw something, but she doesn’t believe it’s what he thinks it is, which is, basically, The Missing Link. This is the crux of their relationship — or of what Mulder gets from it. She believes in him, even if she doesn’t believe what he believes in. He’s hurt most, not at the thought that she doesn’t love him, but that she doesn’t believe in him.
“Mulder,” she demands. “What?” He asks impatiently. In years to come, most of the time when she calls his name, he doesn’t bother to answer at all. There’s really no need. They often say each other’s name and nothing more. Not a sentence that needs to be finished. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote that she awoke from sleep and called her husband’s name, without really meaning to ask anything of him. She had no request. “Just Charles.” That’s what it is here. Just Mulder. Just Scully.
I think this episode is the first time I hear Mulder say something is not “outside the realm of extreme possibility,” when talking about whether there’s a creature that might exist that is above humans on the food chain. The body of the man, but the heart of an animal. If such a creature does exist, the combination of man and animal does not make him inferior to us, but superior, absent of all the civilized concerns and avarice which cause us to practice inhumanity.
When Scully says she has to get back for her date, I expected Mulder to, again, stay behind in Atlantic City. I’m surprised that he went back home. Why’d he go? If there was something left to investigate, why was he less interested in doing so without his partner by his side?
Before returning home, they stop by the University to talk to one of Scully’s old professors, who tells Mulder it’s unlikely that the pre-historic, unevolved creature Mulder is imagining can still exist. Unlikely, but not beyond the realm of exteme possibility, Mulder concludes. Interestingly, Mulder obediently goes to see this man at Scully’s urging, but the scholar is not unswayed by Mulder’s theory. Rather than being deterred, Mulder pulls Scully’s prof over to his side a bit, leaving Scully with less ammunition in reasoning with him.
Mulder’s back at the basement office, looking at the clock which says 7:55 p.m. I don’t really think he’s envisioning Scully on her date, because he’s not looking for an excuse to interrupt it. He doesn’t phone her until he gets the call about another killing.
At dinner, Scully’s date is not the cliche’d boor. He’s talking about his divorce and competing for his son’s attention once his wife started dating (does Mulder feel he’s now competing for Scully’s?). His observation is not inherently dull. He asks about her job and says she doesn’t want to hear about his (estate planning). So, he’s conscious of what is tedious and what is not. There’s no reason why he should be putting her to sleep. But when Mulder calls and says that he’s sorry to be interrupting Scully’s evening, she’s happy to inform him that he’s not doing so. With her upswept hair and lacy blouse, Scully’s dinner provides a stark contrast to the meal she watched Mulder guzzle down, upon exiting the drunk tank. As in Squeeze, Scully chooses her new partner.
When they return to Atlantic City, Mulder asks her what if the beast is female. What if she has emotion. Why is he thinking that being female would automatically imbue the creature with human sensibilities? I don’t get his connection and don’t understand why the sex of the creature changes Mulder’s view at all, except in the end, when it helps him explain their motives in killing. They were only protecting their family, not killing for sport.
When Mulder speaks of primal instincts, Scully remembers the party of 8 year old boys. Those boys were pretending like they were in a jungle. The same type the beast woman inhabited.
When Mulder runs off, tumbling over the ground to chase the beast, Scully seems him from an overhead window and runs after him, doing the same. She runs to protect him, without regard for herself.
The beast woman jumps Mulder and stares at him. When he is first knocked down, he is almost smiling. He’s overjoyed to have this proof that his suspicions are correct and she really does exist. This is satisfying for him, even if it means his life. He stares at her in silent wonder and she stares back, straddling him. She’s on top, her body against his. There’s a sexual undercurrent here, but it’s about nature and instinctive understanding without language, not about lust. After initially lashing out at him, the beast woman harms Mulder no further. Running off, after their long moment of contact and communion. When he hears Scully, Mulder says only her name. Then, he tells her he saw the beast woman and she was “beautiful.” Unmoved Scully says that beautiful nearly ripped out his lung! She tells him he’s hurt, asks him to lie back (which he doesn’t) and tends to his injury, as she did the little boy’s at the party.
In the ambulance, Mulder holds one conversation with Scully who is on the phone and one with the professor who is asking him questions about the beast woman. Mulder does not ignore Scully’s queries, saying “what? what?” each time she calls his name, before answering and turning back to the professor.
Before his wound is fully dressed, Mulder runs off again, when the beast is sighted. He wants to have her shot with a tranquilizer to be brought in (alive). They hit her and she falls, but before they can reach her, she is shot by the New Jersey detective. Unconscious, she no longer posed any harm to him, so she was killed quite unnecessarily. Mulder is incensed and, more importantly, saddened. Empathetic. He asks the detective why he killed her and he says the same reason you would kill a rabid dog. He doesn’t care that this “Jersey Devil” was outwardly — and Mulder believes inwardly — just another human being.
We don’t know what Scully thinks about the shooting. Since the beast had killed and was cannibalistic, Scully might think she’s better off dead. Any scientific curiousity she had might have been outweighed by her belief that justice had been served. We don’t know what she thinks. But by touching Mulder’s arm, she ends his hostile confrontation with Detective Thompson, causing Mulder to turn and walk away. Scully’s gesture is rather dramatic and strikes a false, unskilled note in the episode, which is otherwise very good. Still, once again it shows how Scully can steer or restrain Mulder with the touch of a hand.
Back at the office, as the wonder of the beast woman’s existence is explained away and the storied “Jersey Devil” relegated to mere violent, “Jane Doe” status, Scully begs Mulder to take time off for himself, assuring him that she will cover for his absence. He thanks her for the offer, but has more work to do. He’s still disheartened, having concluded that the beast was a mother who probably came out to hunt only after her mate was killed, in order to feed her offspring. This wonder of nature was not only destroyed by man, but her very existence was discounted by man’s lies. The case is not closed for Mulder.
The phone rings and Mulder tells Scully it’s for her, before leaving the room. She doesn’t sound displeased to find its her date on the other line. He asks her to pick up her god son and go out with him and his boy. We don’t hear her answer.
The next thing we know, she’s by Mulder’s side as he requisitions another car. He asks her who it was on the phone. Why is he so nosy? Perhaps, because he already knows who it was. A guy. The same guy she had dinner with before? Yes. He asks if she is going on another date. Rather forward. She says she is not. When Mulder asks if she has no interest, she answers “none at this time.” This suggests to me that it’s not that the man was unattractive to her. It’s just that she wasn’t interested in what he has to offer right now. Maybe she would have been in the past. Maybe she will be again in the future, but not “at this time.” She didn’t cancel her date to stay with him the first time he asked, but she’s doing it now.
Of course, this whole conversation is held with Mulder’s eyes focused on the rental car paperwork, not on Scully, recalling other “remotely plausible” moments they will share. What’s most interesting is he doesn’t ask her these questions as one pal to another. His questions have a somber undertone that suggests her answers hold some import to him.
As he turns to leave, she does too. Where is she going? She says she’s going with him. He throws her remark back at her and says she must not have a life. She threatens that if he keeps it up, she will hurt him like that beast woman. Oh, that inbred violent streak remains. He says, “Eight million years out of Africa — “
“And look who’s holding the door,” Scully finishes, opening it to let him exit first. We’ve come a long way, baby!
As she follows him to the door, their difference in height (often hidden by the producers) is very obvious here. He’s in the lead, she steps behind him and it almost looks like the demure woman, stepping paces behind her man, until Scully turns the table and assumes the male role of holding the door — which actually goes along with her buying him dinner and taking care of him after the attack.
Mulder wanted Scully by his side and she chose being there over having a love life or, eventually, any life outside of work. The episode was light, but not without offering serious commentary on humanity, inhumanity, nature vs. learned behavior, gender, instinct and how that all comes together in the MSR.