We begin with a great teaser opening in the forest. Kiddos from the class of ’89 are being found dead in the woods with mysterious marks on their backs.
Here is our first glimpse of a young Dana Scully entering FBI headquarters.
Scully is called into the Section Chief’s office and assigned to work with one Fox Mulder on the “X-Files.” When asked if she knows of Agent Mulder, she replies with “by reputation.” I can’t help smiling at the thought of a young Dana Scully hearing about “Spooky Mulder” while training at the FBI Academy. I’m picturing her with a group of friends at lunch and one of them is telling the group about him. Just go with it. If they were anything like my friends, one of them would not forget to mention that although Spooky Mulder is crazy, he’s also smokin’ hot.
Scully makes her way down to the basement, and she’s greeted by the FBI’s “most unwanted.”
Also, this happens.
And Dana Scully agrees.
Scully introduces herself as ‘Dana Scully,’ but Mulder takes the liberty of calling her by her surname. This is an important moment in the beginning of their partnership. He’s treating her as an equal, right off the bat. He knows she’s been sent to report on him, but he’s going to treat her like a fellow agent and not just a beautiful woman. The FBI doesn’t deserve Fox Mulder.
Of course, his willingness to accept her is more than likely also strongly influenced by the research he’s done on her. Before she can begin to assuage what she believes are his doubts as to her qualifications, he gets up to retrieve a copy of her senior thesis.
I need a moment here.
Mulder is posturing a little because he wants her to know that he’s looked into her background. Guys. The man dug up her senior thesis. Perhaps someone can educate me, because I was 8 years old in 1993, but this was before Google, the Patriot Act, and flash drives. I can’t even begin to imagine what he had to do in order to find that damn thing. **trying really hard not to picture Fox Mulder in a library somewhere with those adorable glasses** Anyway, not sure how he dug that up, but I think it’s hot. Then she asks if he read it:
Scully, you can’t appreciate this yet, but I can, and you’re going to love it when you get there. Not only did he read it, he’s going to be able to recite it to you verbatim in 4 years time when the two of you are dealing with a time-traveling old dude with super blue eyes and a penchant for flash-freezing people with a needle.Here’s that moment, to give you something to look forward to:
What have we learned from this? Fox Mulder’s Memory Palace has a room with Dana Scully’s thesis on the table.
Scully’s curiosity gets the better of her and she can’t help herself when she sees that molecular formula. She’s IN. Game on, Mulder.
She does not back down, going toe-to-toe with him using her scientific rational and he can’t help himself — he likes it.
If I’m being honest, this first meeting is my favorite scene from this episode because it’s so iconic. They establish their differences, show respect for the other’s opinions, and embark on their journey together.
The first car scene brings us bad Mulder jokes, sunflower seeds, and a smiling Scully. Also, I love that she catches the discrepancy in the case file, and though Mulder already knows what she tells him, he still listens to her and gives her credit for her catch.
After an electrical disturbance causes Mulder to pull over, we get one of the best WTF looks from Scully of the entire series.
We come to the cemetery, and we get our first of many Gazes while Scully re-reads the case file aloud to Mulder.
And even though they’ve just met, Mulder’s natural instinct is to put himself between Scully and potential harm. I’m not crazy, it’s there.
Oh yeah, the body inside that coffin DOES NOT seem human. Time for Science!
Mulder is so exited about this autopsy, and it’s adorable. Scully, meanwhile, is trying like hell to Science.
Scully thinks this whole thing is someone’s sick joke, but Mulder asks that they run some tests.
He won her over with an appeal for Science, but I like to think that lock of hair is his wingman. I mean, I want to play with it right now.
4 am in the Hotel
Can we take a moment to appreciate that it’s after 4 am and Scully is wide awake and working this case? Or how about the fact that she redecorated the lamps with way cooler shades and that she smiles like this when Mulder knocks on her door?
She also gets mad props from me for being able to resist this:
I mean, she’s crazy. Go for a run with this adorable man, Scully!
A few hours later, we meet a comatose Billy Miles for the first time. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but we’ll be seeing more of him much later. Mulder then stresses Billy’s friend Peggy O’Dell so that Scully can see what he already suspects — that Peggy has those unidentifiable marks on her back too. Scully gets angry and walks out of the hospital.
This is their first cross-roads. Scully’s must know that he doesn’t entirely trust her yet, especially since the first assumption he made was that she was sent to spy on him. However, this doesn’t stop her from getting angry that he’s holding out on her. Scully asks for the truth because she’s in it to help him solve the case. She’s not thinking about her report right now. Mulder, however, is. But he won’t deny her the truth when she asks for it — he tells her he thinks the kids were abducted. She scoffs at this, asking if he honestly believes it. Rather than get angry, he asks if she has a better explanation. It’s not a challenge, because he genuinely listens to her arguments. Scully insists there has to be a rational explanation and that there is nothing to support his claim of abduction. Mulder comes at her with “nothing scientific, you mean.” They’re at a standstill. He’s on alien abduction, she’s on science. Where can they meet in the middle?
Fellow Philes, we’ll see this again: “You’ve got two choices; one of them is wrong.”
Mulder: “I think they went left.”
Scully: ” I don’t know why, I think they went right.”
Or, in this first, case, “Driving Straight” = The Woods. Because Scully asked the real question: What were those kids doing out there in the forest?”
While searching the woods, we’re graced with definitive proof that Agent Scully is a BAMF. She happens upon a strange man with a shot gun who literally has the high ground, and she still points her gun at him and tells him to drop his weapon. Fearless.
That strange man happens to be the Sheriff, who kicks them out of the forest. They have some dirt to look over, but that’s before they lose 9 minutes in the car. Mulder’s excitement over this time loss is too cute.
That First Hotel Scene
I love this scene for so many reasons:
1. Mulder can tell immediately from Scully’s face and tone of voice that something is wrong. Whatever initial shock he had at seeing her in his doorway with a bathrobe dissolves when he realizes she’s upset. I love him. He cannot, however, hide his “holy shit” look when she drops her robe. Get it together quickly, Mulder.
2. He also can’t seem to help touching the small of her back when looking at those mosquito bites — not necessary, but I’m betting Scully can forgive him.
3. He takes a little longer than he should to tell her that they’re mosquito bites.
4. He lets her hug him and pats her ever so awkwardly on the shoulder. His tender “you’re shaking” comment and the way he searches for her eyes nearly undoes me.
He understands in that very moment how important it is for her to gather her composure because her she allowed him to see her vulnerability and fear. Did I mention that I love him for this?
I also like to think he makes a mental note that sounds like “we are never going to have personal space between us.” In all fairness, Scully popped that bubble first. Mulder simply spends the next 9 seasons and 2 movies making sure there is never enough space between them for a bubble ever again.
6. Here’s what I really want to know: How did they get from the table to Scully wrapped in a blanket on the bed and Mulder on the floor. How?? Does he offer her the blanket? Does he offer her the bed to lie down on? Does she just get up and go over there on her own? Does he drape it over her after she lies down? What initiates the conversation where he tells her about his sister? I NEED to know these things. Someone ask Chris Carter for me. No, just kidding. Someone ask Gillian for me. She’ll have the answer I like best.
7. These are two very different people having this conversation now. He opens up to her and she listens to all of it. She’s decided, here in this room, that she’s going to help him. Reports be damned. I love her. Oh, and this arm-touching.
8. I’d also like to point out the parallels between this episode and “The Truth.” It’s beautiful. The way he lays his head back on the bed, when he turns to look at her, the way she’s listening to him. His mission statement. Watch these scenes back to back, it’s awesome. Unless of course you’re watching all of this for the first time — don’t you dare skip ahead. It’s worth it, I promise. See!
Back to the Pilot…
Our hotel scene is interrupted with a phone call. Of course.
Peggy O’Dell has been found dead. We also get our first guiding hand on Scully’s back. Getting touchy, you two. And yes, I’ll be counting all of these.
Mulder and Scully are told that the corpse (from the autopsy) was stolen, and they return to find their hotel burning. So, no X-rays or pictures of said corpse. Oh, and Scully’s computer is toast. It’s here that Teresa Nemman emerges from the crowd of onlookers and asks for protection. They take her with them.
In the Diner
Teresa fears for her safety because she has the marks on her back like the other abductees. Her father and Detective Miles rush in to retrieve her.
Mulder suggests they return to the cemetery to check those other two graves. The graves are empty.
They have a revelation about Billy Miles and decide to return to the hospital. But not before being utterly adorable together. Look at them! Babies!
Back at the hospital, Mulder tries to distract the nurse with questions while Scully checks Billy’s feet. She also utilizes Tissues of Science!
In case you missed it, our Gazing Tally is now at 2.
Scully was prepared to go with their conclusion that Billy Miles has been taking the kids to the forest, but Mulder has to remind her that she’ll need actual evidence for her report. For her. He’d be happy to make the conclusion and be done, but he knows that she needs it for her credibility. He’s so selfless here. Again, I love him.
They return to the woods. Billy Miles tries to take Teresa into the vortex of leaves but that crazy bright light disappears and snaps him out of his “state.” The marks on his back are gone. Everyone’s okay. Unfortunately, Scully sees none of this, but that okay, because there is more touching when Mulder goes to check on her.
Billy Miles undergoes regression hypnosis, and I know this is a significant moment, but I just can’t with this lock of hair anymore.
Scully’s behind the glass with the section chief, his assistant, and CSM, but she’s the last to leave the room. It’s a good thing those guys didn’t see this intense gaze, or they would have reassigned her somewhere else then and there. Her loyalties are with this man:
Scully delivers her report to the section chief. They expected her to fail, but she managed to save one critical piece of evidence that was in her pocket during the fire AND she’s decided to help Mulder. Obviously, the section chief has no idea he just put together the partnership of the century.
We end the episode with a phone call that begins with, “Scully, it’s me.”
Mulder says they need to talk. Scully assures him they will — tomorrow.
Wow, that was longer than I expected! Sorry! If you’ve hung in this long, Thank you! This first episode is a joy to watch and experience again and again. It is the beginning of one of the most beautiful friendships and relationships ever portrayed and the start of a truly special and iconic television series.
I’m sure I’ll refine my episode recaps the longer I go. I think it’s obvious sleep-deprivation was hitting me toward the end…
Thank you for your patience. Any feedback or tips ar greatly appreciated! My Deep Throat Recap is coming soon. Until then!
Mulder and Scully are the Truth.
-River T. Leaman