The X-Files

Season 5 Episode 18

The Pine Bluff Variant

0
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM May 03, 1998 on FOX
8.2
out of 10
User Rating
251 votes
13

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT
Scully fears that Mulder has gone to the other side when she sees him assisting a federal suspect escape custody. In truth he has infiltrated a terrorist group testing a deadly biological weapon that can eat through a person's flesh.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • The Pine Bluff Variant

    10
    The Pine Bluff Variant was a perfect and very entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed the story which was awesome and a little scary in some ways. There was action, suspense and lots of character development. I liked this type of story where Mulder was undercover. The guest cast was phenomenal and played their parts well. It was crazy to see Mulder put in a situation testing his moral limits as his loyalty was tested by those he infiltrated when he was told to kill a man. The ending was great! I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Mulder goes undercover

    8.5
    Another episode that finds Scully and Mulder mostly split up throughout the episode, but I was completely enthralled by how crazy everything was in the episode. It felt, at times, more like a 24 episode than an X-Files episode, with Mulder going deep cover and being forced into situations that he's not used to being in.



    I agree with some of the reviews that claimed the episode suffers from having Scully discover too early Mulder's undercover mission. After she learns about Mulder's plan to take down the terrorist group, the episode loses much of its intensity. However, I'm willing to overlook these things, especially because the writing actually kept things moving at a constantly fast pace. But anybody who really thinks Mulder would die needs to get their head checked; the suspense doesn't come from whether or not he'll die but how he'll get saved.



    I liked the way the show used Skinner here as well; it shows him to be a true ally to Mulder and Scully, regardless of his role in the FBI. And while I thought the overall plot was pretty good, I was a little confused at how the government fit into all of this. It's like one of those random twists 24 used to do that takes you a little while to figure it all out. However, I definitely liked the episode more than I thought I would.moreless
  • A disappointment after a great run.

    2.9
    From 'Bad Blood' onwards, The X-Files had a phenomenal run of great episodes, considering the show was already more than midway through its lifespan. Rejuvenated by guest writers including Stephen King, recent episodes had combined emotional depth, pathos, humor, horror and fantastic characterisation that the show hadn't seen to such a degree since its first couple of seasons. Many of these were genuine classics.



    Unfortunately, like the filler episode before it, 'The Pine Bluff Variant' is a poor episode. Dull, humorless and worst of all, just plain nasty. The extended 'torture' scenes make for very uncomfortable viewing, the plot is ill thought out, and despite once again using a hostage situation as a source of suspense (done with much greater success in the 'Duane Barry' episode), this whole show is a tepid, poor affair. There are very few episodes of the X-Files that I would skip on repeat viewing of a season, but this is certainly one of them. X-Files fans can certainly handle gore, horror and tense situations - particularly when included in the context of an excellent story. 'The Pine Bluff Variant' is merely unpleasant.moreless
  • Lies Within Lies (Wrapped In Plastic)

    7.5
    I'm not a fan of John Shiban. He writes shallow scripts that generally lack a strong sense of internal logic. That said, this is a reasonably well-constructed spy thriller with an interesting premise - Scully thinking that Mulder is actually working for the bad guys.



    It is a serious failing of this episode that Scully is let in on Mulder's secret (and rather clumsily so) only one-third into the episode. This ill-timed revelation immediately drains the episode of any tension it had managed to generate up to that point. It would have been much more interesting to draw out Scully's distrust throughout more of the episode and to keep the audience guessing right along with her. A harder task, to be sure, but that's why you get paid the big bucks, right? Or not...



    As it is, since we know the bad guys will not succeed (and also that Mulder will not die) the remaining two-thirds of the episode becomes a bit of a ho-hum affair. Sure, there is the "lies within the lies" schtick but it all ultimately comes across as so much showboating, with no real significance. I mean, why would the government kill its own people in such an uncontrolled environment as a movie theatre? Why not test the toxin on foreign enemies (or even prisoners as was done in an earlier season's episode)? The entire storyline makes little sense.



    Duchovny and Anderson's acting is adequate. The two heavies are played brilliantly, which highlights the averageness of Duchovny's and Anderson's performances. The direction by Bowman is top notch, as usual, which elevates this episode above mediocrity. Fine camerawork with lots of inspired shots and angles.



    Mulder's torture scene was treated a bit too lightly. I know it's television but, seriously, a broken pinky? That's the best these bad boys can do? I winced throughout this scene, not because I was feeling Mulder's pain, but because it was so embarassingly flat and unmenacing.moreless
  • Lies Within Lies (Wrapped In Plastic)

    7.5
    I'm not a fan of John Shiban. He writes shallow scripts that generally lack a strong sense of internal logic. That said, this is a reasonably well-constructed spy thriller with an interesting premise - Scully thinking that Mulder is actually working for the bad guys.



    It is a serious failing of this episode that Scully is let in on Mulder's secret (and rather clumsily so) only one-third into the episode. This ill-timed revelation immediately drains the episode of any tension it had managed to generate up to that point. It would have been much more interesting to draw out Scully's distrust throughout more of the episode and to keep the audience guessing right along with her. A harder task, to be sure, but that's why you get paid the big bucks, right? Or not...



    As it is, since we know the bad guys will not succeed (and also that Mulder will not die) the remaining two-thirds of the episode becomes a bit of a ho-hum affair. Sure, there is the "lies within the lies" schtick but it all ultimately comes across as so much showboating, with no real significance. I mean, why would the government kill its own people in such an uncontrolled environment as a movie theatre? Why not test the toxin on foreign enemies (or even prisoners as was done in an earlier season's episode)? The entire storyline makes little sense.



    Duchovny and Anderson's acting is adequate. The two heavies are played brilliantly, which highlights the averageness of Duchovny's and Anderson's performances. The direction by Bowman is top notch, as usual, which elevates this episode above mediocrity. Fine camerawork with lots of inspired shots and angles.



    Mulder's torture scene was treated a bit too lightly. I know it's television but, seriously, a broken pinky? That's the best these bad boys can do? I winced throughout this scene, not because I was feeling Mulder's pain, but because it was so embarassingly flat and unmenacing.moreless
J. B. Bivens

J. B. Bivens

Field Agent

Guest Star

Douglas Arthurs

Douglas Arthurs

Skin-Head Man

Guest Star

John B. Lowe

John B. Lowe

Dr. Leavitt

Guest Star

Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi

Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (6)

    • At 25:34 when Scully and the scientist are in the lab analyzing the biological agent, the location stamp indicates Level 4 Hot Lab, Center for Disease Control. This is incorrect. The correct name is the Centers for Disease Control or CDC.

    • The "Pepsi Challenge" line was improvised by David Duchovny. According to John Shiban, David Duchovny has been responsible for a lot of "mulderisms" through similar improvisation.

    • The original script called for Mulder to wear a "Wolfman" mask during the bank robbery scene. However, David Duchovny called the writers and requested a Dracula mask because that was his favorite childhood monster character.

    • When the biological agent produces such extreme pain (as seen in the episode teaser), why would (nearly) all of the patrons of the movie theatre be sitting calmly in their seats as they died, as indicated by the placement of their bodies?

    • Why did the projectionist die? He didn't have a reason to touch or handle the money that August Bremer sprayed in the movie theater.

    • When Haley goes to the cinema (which is playing Die Hard - With A Vengeance) the usherette says that "the show's almost over", but when the two boys break in we can see that it is up to the scene on the train; less than half an hour into the film.

      Analysis of above: when the two boys break into the theatre, it is at night, when Haley went inside it was day.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Bremer: (Gun at Mulder's head) On your feet.
      Mulder: I don't need a car. You can just call me a cab. That'd be fine.
      Bremer: Let's go.
      Mulder: Go where? (Grunts as "Gimp" grabs him roughly and pulls him up)
      Bremer: Witnessing the murder of a federal agent would make these men accessories to the crime.
      Mulder: Do you hear that?
      "Gimp": I wouldn't miss it for the world.
      (Mulder nods ruefully)

    • (Mulder walks into his darkened apartment, wincing at his bruised and broken pinky finger)
      Scully: Don't be alarmed.
      Mulder: Scully, get out of here.
      Scully: Mulder--
      Mulder: Get outta here!
      Scully: I know what you're doing. Skinner told me everything.
      Mulder: I don't know what you're talking about.
      Scully: What happened to your hand.
      Mulder: .. Nothing. (Winces as Scully reaches for his hand, poking at his pinky finger)
      Scully: Oh Mulder, what did they do to you? This needs to be set. You're in pain.
      Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pulling it around like that.

    • Mulder: If you don't hear from me about midnight...feed my fish!

    • Mulder: So, is this the Pepsi Challenge?

    • Haley: This is just a little method that we use... to learn the truth.
      (Thug grabs Mulder's little finger)
      Mulder: Well, you... you might want to put that hood back on, man, unless you want to see a grown man cry.

    • Scully: The toxin was transmitted directly... and not contagious.
      Field Agent: How do you know that ?
      Mulder: We're not all dead.

  • NOTES (5)

    • In the blooper reel for this season, there are several clips from this episode. One of them shows Gillian Anderson unable to stop giggling as she walks into the theater with Skinner. Someone off screen says, "Serious. Dead bodies." And she sets off laughing again. In another scene, Mulder is given the black hood to put over his head and David Duchovny stares seriously at the man and asks, "Do you have the yellow one?"

    • When Scully asks for Mr. Kaplan at the Aaron Burr Motor Court, it is the writer's sly homage to Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. In the film, George Kaplan is the CIA-assigned pseudonym to an imaginary secret agent registered at hotels all around the country.

    • Kate Braidwood, who played the movie theater usherette, is the daughter of X-Files first assistant director Tom "Frohike" Braidwood.

    • The title refers to the fact that a U.S. biological warfare compound existed in Pine Bluff, AR, during the Cold War.

      *Should be Pine Bluff, AR, as in Pine Bluff Arkansas.

    • Skinner says that August Bremar took an interest in Mulder when he heard him speak about the government hoax at an alien abductee conference. This is most likely the conference that Mulder was at in the beginning of 'Patient X'.

  • ALLUSIONS (4)

    • Mulder: Is this the Pepsi challenge?

      This alludes to the Pepsi blindfolded advertising scheme. It refers to the blindfolded test that Pepsi company ran where they were served both Pepsi and Coke and asked which the customer preferred.

    • In the torture scene, Mulder refers to Haley's skinhead strongman as "The Gimp." This is a reference to a similarly clothed character in a torture scene from the 1994 film "Pulp Fiction."

    • Further to the last comment, Aaron Burr was accused of treason in 1807 but was acquitted. Therefore his story parallels that of Mulder even more closely in that both were accused of being traitors but both were later exonerated.

    • Visual: Aaron Burr Hotel
      A suspicious Scully follows Mulder to the Aaron Burr hotel. Aaron Burr (known as Thomas Jefferson's Vice President and for the dueling-death of Alexander Hamilton) was convicted of treason and has gone down in history as a traitor. A suitable name for a hotel where Scully suspects Mulder of becoming a traitor himself.

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