Season 1, Episode 5: “The Jersey Devil”
You know how I’ve been saying Season 1 is awkward, and that very few episodes manage to escape being bitten by the awkward bug? Well, “The Jersey Devil” is so badly infected by the awkward bug that it’s hilarious. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I genuinely enjoy watching this episode, in fact I love watching this episode, because the awkwardness is just so beautiful. I mean it. It is a beautiful, beautiful episode.
“The Jersey Devil” is definitely the most lighthearted episode we’ve seen so far. The first truly comedic episode, that is, an episode written entirely to be funny, is Season 2’s “Humbug,” but it was written by Darin Morgan, so there’s more than funny there, I assure you (I don’t want to wear out Darin Morgan before his time, so I won’t say anything more). But I think “The Jersey Devil” amuses me on a different level, and I can’t exactly pinpoint what that level is. It could be that the show is trying to be serious in the face of a rather ridiculous scenario, but honestly compared to some episodes the scenario isn’t that ridiculous, or over-the-top, even. It could be that the dialogue is awkward. But it’s no more awkward than in the other episodes.
I think what amuses me is the juxtaposition between Mulder’s serious attempt to catch the beast woman and Scully’s serious attempt – and I do mean attempt – to actually go on a date and live a life. Judging from this episode, it seems as though Scully doesn’t have much of a life to begin with. Granted, it’s more than Mulder has, but if your social life involves helping your friend with her son’s birthday party, you’re not exactly being a social butterfly, are you? I have a feeling that Scully’s comments about Mulder not having a life are pretty funny considering Mulder would probably rather move into the hobo’s house permanently than babysit. However much of a life he may not be living, Mulder is having more fun than Scully is.
This episode also has the impeccable exchange between Scully and her friend:
FRIEND: What about that guy you work with?
FRIEND: Yeah, I thought you said he was cute.
SCULLY: He’s a jerk. He’s not a jerk, he’s erm, he’s obsessed with his work.
This is so perfect in so many ways I can’t even tell you. For one thing, it is the first miniscule little tiny small microscopic teensy infinitesimal moment that could possibly be considered a Shipper scene.
And thus I open the can of worms.
It all depends on when you think the Shippyness actually begins. I’d be lying if I said I thought Mulder and Scully were anything but platonic in the first three seasons at least. Somewhere in the midst of four and five is when things changed. That being said, once you pledge yourself a member of the Shipper community, there is no going back. And try as you might, you can’t help but breathe Shippyness into the smallest of moments, no matter how early the episode is. So when scenes such as these come around, I read WAY too much into them. That’s okay. I’m a Shipper. It’s what we do.
So, here’s why I love this exchange.
First thing this tells us: Scully has mentioned Mulder to at least one friend. This means she isn’t embarrassed by him. I’m not saying there’s any indication that she ever was, but the scientific, skeptical Scully is probably not going to go around telling people she works with Fox Mulder, a guy who believes in aliens, UFOs, and the paranormal, unless she likes him enough that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about that.
Second thing this tells us: Scully thinks Mulder is cute. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything in and of itself. Season 1 Mulder is adorable. Might I remind you:
But what it does mean is that Scully isn’t blind, and she isn’t an idiot. She knows she’s working with an attractive person. Notice that she never denies saying that Mulder was cute. Mulder, for his part, will make a similar comment about Scully in “E.B.E.”
Third thing this tells us: Scully’s comment about Mulder being a jerk/not a jerk is a lot more telling than I think most people realize. Why would Scully care what Mulder was doing, unless she legitimately wanted to spend time with him? After all, she did not want to make that car trip by herself.
And then there’s the date. Oh, the date. It’s so beautiful in so many ways. For one thing, Scully looks like she just walked out of a Halloween play (if such things exist). For another, the guy is so obviously boring that Scully doesn’t even appear too disappointed when Mulder calls her. And the “I don’t think it’s a case we should discuss over dinner” is hilarious because what X-Files case is something you can discuss with someone over dinner?
Scully looks so awkward and uncomfortable during the date that I can’t believe that wasn’t done on purpose. That date was the visual symbol of Scully’s attempts to actually have a social life…attempts which, as the series will clearly indicate, withered and died very early on. There is no dating when you’re on the X-Files. Seriously, they should have made that a rule. Then we wouldn’t have gotten episodes like “3” and “Never Again.”
Final score for “The Jersey Devil” is 6/10 stars for not really being that good if we’re looking at it through the lens of serious critical analysis. But in actuality, it is a beautiful, beautiful chunk of awkwardness.
- The random detective guy that hates Mulder is really funny. He actually locks Mulder up in a jail cell. I don’t know what it is about Season 1 Mulder, he just really seems to piss off men in law enforcement. I mean, more so than usual.
- Awesome Scullyism Award for the line “Keep it up, Mulder, and I’ll hurt you like that beast woman.”
- For some reason, the beast child at the end of the episode reminds me of the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and I have no idea why.