By the 20th episode of the fourth season of “The X-Files,” “Small Potatoes,” the Chris Carter series about two FBI agents investigating unexplained phenomena, had really hit its stride. Episodes had not only explored the mythology of the show – admittedly one that would eventually implode – as well as monster-of-the-week stories. And, as in “Small Potatoes,” darkly comic mysteries.
Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) go to a West Virginia small town that – according to a tabloid – has seen a rash of “monkey babies” – infants with tails – born.
By this point in the series, Duchovny had settled into his wry conspiracy theorist role and Anderson was firmly in her “voice of reason” mode.
When Mulder discovers a schlubby janitor, Eddie (played by Darin Morgan, one of the series’ writers) is the likely culprit, Scully theorizes he’s used a date rape drug to take advantage of the women. But before the first commercial, the viewers learn that the janitor has the ability to change his appearance to look like anyone. He comes from circus folk, you see. Not only do tails run in his family, but so does a muscle mutation that allows short-term appearance changes.
Eventually, Eddie impersonates Mulder, leading to a climactic scene when Mulder attempts to seduce Scully, a twist of the “will they or won’t they” tease for Mulder and Scully ‘shippers.
“The birds and the bees and the monkey babies, Mulder.”
The episode debuted April 20, 1997, when the series was broadcast on Sunday nights.
Eddie actor Morgan won an Emmy for writing the 1996 episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” featuring Peter Boyle as a psychic.
Christine Cavanaugh played the young woman whose delivery of a baby with a tail prompts the visit from Mulder and Scully. She’s best known for her work as a voiceover actor, providing the voice for Babe from “Babe” and Chuckie Finster from “Rugrats.” Until just re-watching the episode, I thought the of the woman seduced by Luke Skywalker had been played by Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily, who played Dottie in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”
Duchovny has a field day playing Mulder as impersonated by Eddie, making goofy faces and almost getting in trouble with their boss, Skinner.
The episode was written by one of the series’ best writers, Vince Gilligan, who went on to create “Breaking Bad.”
One of the commercials that aired during the episode – I know, because I watched it on my ancient VHS tape – was a TGIFriday’s commercial featuring none other than “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston.