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TV Review: The X-Files Season 11 Episode 4 "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat"

Episode: "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat"

Synopsis: The episode explores “the idea of The Mandela Effect, in which large groups of people remember an alternate history, Mulder and Scully find out how the X-Files themselves may really have originated.

The X-Files, TV Review, The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, Darin Morgan, David Duchovny, FOX, Gillian Anderson

REVIEW: Over this season and the previous one, something has felt different about The X-Files. Maybe it is the fact that the original series fit perfectly into the world of the 1990s, both politically and culturally. The X-Files has always featured a paranoid, conspiracy theory core that has helped support the bizarre and thrilling mythology of the show. With the Internet now a mainstay of our society and a political climate unlike any our country has ever seen, there is just a different feel to what The X-Files represents. The government plot of collusion with alient beings just doesn't seem all that crazy anymore and that in itself is downright crazy. So, with the conspiracies that were once the heart of Chris Carter's series not quite as vital as before, the highlights of each season involve the funniest and most creatively unique attempts to tell stories in the saga of Mulder and Scully. Darin Morgan, writer of some of the series best standalone hours, has once again created what may be the best episode of the eleventh season and one thar serves as a fitting reminder of what makes The X-Files so special.

"The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" centers around Reggie Something, a man who may or may not be a former partner of Mulder and Scully. Reggie, using Mulder's old Deep Throat/Mr. X communication technique, begs the FBI agents to help him not get erased from the world. Citing the Mandela Effect, wherein people collectively remember something that no one else can verify (i.e. the nonexistent Sinbad movie, SHAZAM), Mulder fervently searches for a lost episode of The Twilight Zone while Reggie gifts a box of a 3-2-1 Jell-O knock-off that Scully fondly remembers. Mulder theorizes it could be proof of paralle universes while Scully decries it just as false memory, but neither can understand how Reggie knows things about their work on The X-Files if he had not actually been a member of their division. 

What follows is a half-hearted investigation by Mulder and Scully into Reggie's claims that instead serves as a vehicle for some random homages to the original run of the series with Reggie dropped in, FORREST GUMP-style. Could there actually be a Mandela Effect (or Mengele Effect, per Reggie) that is being orchestrated by the mysterious Dr. They? Mulder thinks so and delves into his former conspiracy theory mode to try and explain the phenomenon they are experiencing but fails to tie everything together. An upstart pair of FBI agents even call Mulder out as a shell of his formerly legendary self, prompting Mulder to shout "I'm Fox Freakin Mulder!" but the FBI agents show no reaction. This is a not-so-thinly veiled commentary on the current season of The X-Files as being lesser than the original run with our current societal climate not being condusive to such theories. The real world is now stranger than anything on The X-Files which could mean this is the end of the road for Mulder and Scully.

Eventually, Reggie is confronted by Scully who finds proof that he was never assigned to The X-Files but was actually the victim of a severe brain trauma which was followed by being shifted around various government jobs before ending up listening to an illegal wiretap of Mulder and Scully. Reggie then allowed his imagination to insert him into Mulder and Scully's lives. Reggie freely allows himself to go along with the men from an insane asylum that had been following him. But before they cart him away, Reggie shares the final case he had with Mulder and Scully. It involved a UFO descending and an alien (riding a segway) paraphrasing Donald Trump's claims about a border wall. The alien says they now see humans as inferior and refuse to communicate with us, instead gifting Mulder with a book containing all the answers to any questions. Mulder collapses, refusing to believe it while Reggie decries this as the end of The X-Files. The three embrace and Reggie is carted away.

The X-Files, TV Review, The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, Darin Morgan, David Duchovny, FOX, Gillian Anderson

As the ambulance departs, Skinner arrives in the garage and asks where they are taking Reggie, prompting Mulder and Scully to look at each other with shocked expressions. Back at his apartment, Mulder finds the missing Twilight Zone episode he was looking for (turns out to be from a knock-off series) and Scully prepares to eat her Jell-O. At the last moment, she decides not to eat it and would rather remember her fond memories as happy and not taint them with a disappointing experience now. She also says she wants to recall her time on The X-Files in the same way.

Darin Morgan has always done a stellar job penning the hours of The X-Files that are the goofiest and silliest while also embracing the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson that has been the heart of this show. Brian Huskey does an admirable job as Reggie who embraces everything paranoid and crazy from classic X-Files episodes and updates it perfectly for this revival. "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" feels more like a swan song to The X-Files than any other episode and would have made an excellent series finale. It feels odd that we will have six more episodes after this one, but hopefully they continue the upward trend each hour has made since the premiere. Some of the Trump references in this hour may not hold up on repeated viewings years from now, but the fun and personality of this episode make it a highlight of this season and of the entire series.

 
Next on The X-Files: "Ghouli" airs January 31st - When a pair of teenage girls attack one another, each believing the other to be a monster, Mulder and Scully find that their investigation could possibly lead back to their long-lost son, William.
 
Source: JoBlo.com

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