Season 4, Episode 20: “Small Potatoes”
Vince Gilligan, among other things, is known for two funny episodes on The X-Files: “Small Potatoes” and Season 5’s “Bad Blood.” There are more, but these two are the most famous. Now, “Bad Blood” remains one of the most popular episodes ever. Even Gillian Anderson admitted it was her favorite. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen fans get so violently passionate about a comedic X-Files episode as they do for “Bad Blood.”
But for my money, “Small Potatoes” is the better comedic script and it’s not just because Darin Morgan plays Eddie Van Blundht (okay, that has something to do with it, but there’s more). Vince Gilligan’s knack for writing near-perfect scripts shines in this one, both with the humor and the heart. Even if Darin Morgan isn’t the writer, his presence seems to indicate that Gilligan has his hat tipped to Morgan’s style of comedy. It’s still Gilligan’s own brand of humor, of course, but the influence is obvious.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Darin Morgan (well, besides Darin Morgan himself), is that, like all good comedy, there’s an underlying message. But what puts “Small Potatoes” on an entirely different plane than a Darin Morgan script is not really the writing, but the execution. This is where David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson really get to show off their comedic talents, in a way they haven’t really done since Season 3. Not only because the script is funny, but because Gilligan allows the funnier aspects of the characters’ personalities to surface. We get to see relaxed Scully, clumsy Mulder, and – best of all – banter. Not just any banter, flirty banter. It’s wonderful.
I need to interrupt this review for a moment to squeal. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. It’s just that every time I think of something I love about this episode, I almost immediately think of something else. Almost every moment is golden. To list them all would be pointless and yet I don’t want to leave any out.
The comedy here is subtle, but that’s what makes it shine. I think that’s why I’ve always put “Small Potatoes” just slightly above “Bad Blood” when it comes to the comedic episodes. “Bad Blood” is hilarious, but it’s in-your-face hilarious. You almost have no choice but to laugh. “Small Potatoes,” however, forces you to catch all the facial expressions, in-jokes, and witty lines. Sometimes you laugh and you’re not sure what you just laughed at. I love that.
“Small Potatoes” doesn’t have as large an underlying theme as a Darin Morgan episode, but there is this idea Eddie Van Blundht shares with Mulder about being a loser. “I was born a loser, but you’re one by choice.” To Eddie, Mulder has enormous advantages – good looks, brains, a badass job, a beautiful partner – and he’s wasting his time with geeks and aliens. Not that we’re supposed to take Eddie too seriously – he is, after all, a rapist – but he’s got a point. I think Gilligan uses Eddie Van Blundht to raise some questions about Mulder and Scully that, though they’re placed in this comedic context, are very genuine: why haven’t Mulder and Scully “really talked”? Why does Mulder, who has been blessed with many enviable traits, waste his life away on a seemingly impossible quest (and for that matter, why does Scully?)? Why does Mulder sleep on a couch?
We’re not supposed to analyze the hell out of this episode, but I think there’s a message here that can’t be ignored. Take advantage of your advantages, folks. Don’t be Eddie Van Blundht, who indulges in small, meaningless pleasures through manipulation and deception. Live a little. Treat yourself.
Or at the very least, have a glass of wine with the Scully in your life every once in a while.
Final score for “Small Potatoes” is 10/10. Of course it is. What else did you think it was going to be?
This is going to be the longest “Notable Nuggets” I’ve ever done. No regrets.
- First, these facial expressions from our dear Dana Scully:
- David Duchovny’s performance as Eddie Van Blundht is an entire notable nugget. David, God forbid if you ever read this – fantastic job.
- Also, David Duchovny pulled Darin Morgan’s pants down. Think about that. (There’s a Season 4 blooper that makes this even funnier.)
- Favorite lines:
“On behalf of all the women in the world, I seriously doubt this is anything to do with consensual sex.” (Scully talking about women’s rights? Automatic turn on.)
“Hey, Scully, should we be picking out china patterns or what?”
“All right, then. Eleanor Roosevelt.”
“You spelled Federal Bureau of Investigation wrong.”
“I like it.”
- I wonder if it was awkward for David Duchovny to call himself a “damn good looking man.”
- How did Mulder get out of the janitor’s closet? Also, did anyone notice that Eddie Van Blundht left food for him? Cracks me up.
- Amanda the Star Wars nut is hi-larious and is an absolute gem in this episode. Also, RIP Christine Cavanaugh.
- Scully didn’t do much protesting when “Mulder” leaned in to kiss her. Maybe it was the wine?
- She has that “oh, sh*t” look on her face, though, when he leans in. We’ll see it again in Fight the Future.