"John Doe"


"Hey, look, Skinner showed up for this episode!"

If there is one thing that an X-Phile can count on, itís an episode by Vince Gilligan. Sure, thatís a maxim thatís been tested once or twice in the past, like last seasonís ďRoadrunnersĒ, but when it really comes down to it, Vince knows how to deliver. More importantly, he knows how to deliver with an eye towards strong characterization, and if one is lucky, continuity.

Tattoos, of course, aside.

This episode has a remarkably simple premise. Doggett, during an investigation into a money laundering operation conducted by a Mexican drug cartel, who also has a tendency to smuggle illegal aliens across the border, gets into the clutches of a very bad man. You see, the very bad man can steal your memories completely and, apparently, zap them into a small metal skull, which the very bad man uses as a fetish of sorts. Doggett winds up trying to recover his memory, while working for the very people who were responsible for his capture and condition in the first place.

All of which is the somewhat odd and not so well explained premise behind one hell of a wonderful exploration of Doggettís character, even though it doesnít really tell us much more than we already knew about him. Along the way, we wind up learning more than a little about Monica Reyes, as in where she comes from and just how tough she can be when necessary.

Of course, none of this would be complete without the requisite difficulties erected in the way by AD Kersh. Apparently after a whole two weeks, Kersh has decided that the manhunt for Doggett should be disbanded. This is just the kind of thing Scully and Skinner live for, so as soon as the edict comes down, theyíre on their way to meet Monica and interface with the Mexican federal police, respectively.

As it starts out, Doggett looks like heís been through pure hell, and to be honest, he wears it damn well. Even without his memory, heís not without his wits. It doesnít take him long to start working, while taking whatever steps are necessary to hunt down his identity. He gets about as far as the Marine Corps, a conclusion he comes to thanks to a rather large tattoo on his left biceps. If you donít recall seeing that before, donít worry about it, itíll just bug you.

As he does his work for the cartel, parts of his personality ring through, like his integrity and honor. He refuses to commit an outright crime, even under his current circumstances, but at the same time, he works hard at whatever job he will do. In a way, this is a bit of a reflection of his work on the X-Files. His old career and life was taken away from him by the actions of unseen others, and even though validating the paranormal is not something he wants to do, he has committed himself to doing it as well as he can.

What also shines through are flashes of memories, which center on a single morning when Luke awoke him to show him, of all things, that he had learned how to ride his bike. Luke looks just about as old as heís ever going to get here, and given the way that Doggett smiles with such pride, itís clear that this is the memory that Doggett hold in his mind, of a time just before everything was ripped away from him.

As the memory unfolds, more and more of Doggett comes through. But before the process can complete itself, one of his fellow smugglers decides that he is just a little too useful. Just as the man tries to kill Doggett, he lets out the fact that Doggett is FBI. Itís the kind of thing that would usually end with Doggett able to actually act on the information, but in a nice twist, Doggett doesnít find rescue after learning that much. Instead, they find him.

Again, in a nice twist, as Monica focuses her impressive will on the people of San Antonio, Scully comes along with information from the Marine Corps. It leads Monica to the wonderful little suburb of Freakiní Nowhere, where she winds up eventually finding Doggett, who is amazed to discover that she is his partner.

Oh, and did I mention that our lovely Monica turns out to have been raised in Mexico? Apparently that explains why a very white woman has a Latin name, but thatís besides the point. The local police force doesnít take kindly to Monicaís intervention, and decides that killing two FBI agents is the best way to solve the dispute. As Monica shows us a bit of attitude, something I confess was very satisfying to see, Doggett tells her that the only thing he remembers is having a son.

This is easily one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the episode, if only because of how well itís performed. The growing look of dread on Monicaís face as the conversation takes the exact turn she was hoping to avoid speaks volumes, and the sheer spectrum of emotions that race across Doggettís face when he realizes that the one memory he has been holding onto all this time was of his dead son is incredible. Itís a small scene, set amongst a hail of gunfire, but it strikes home.

Itís also a nice bit of symmetry, because it has been hinted at more than once that Monica was there to help Doggett find a new purpose in life after Lukeís death. Iím not speaking in the romantic sense, though it would appear that Monica developed feeling for him along the way. More to the point, when he needed someone to bring him back from the darkness of grief and despair, she was there for him, just as she is the one who recovers him in this situation.

It all ends with Doggett and Reyes taking one last chance together to get out alive against the odds, and just when things look really bad, Skinner rushes in with the Mexican feds to save the day. Again, perhaps a little bit of symmetry or foreshadowing, because one can see how Doggett and Reyes are willing to trust each other with their lives, even to the end, but Skinner is there to help them when heís needed. I say foreshadowing because, frankly, Skinner hasnít really had the chance to help them in that capacity yet. But hereís hoping!

I would have liked to have seen a little more about how the very bad man worked his mojo, but given that this is the ďX-FilesĒ, I suppose I should give them a little slack. Besides, this episode told us more about Doggett and Reyes in less time, and in less words, than we have seen since ďEmpedoclesĒ last season. And thatís always something that Iím willing to suspend a little bit of disbelief for.

Some other thoughts:

- Iíd love to know what month they thought this episode was set during. Iím damn sure itís not January, since that would mean that Doggett went looking for the money laundering dude right around, oh, Christmas!

- Even though the episode never quite came out and said it, Iím assuming that Doggett was assigned to find the money laundering dude because he had gone missing without a trace. Otherwise, itís interesting that he was working that case...though I wonder why Monica wasnít on it as well...

- So, when Mulder goes missing, an entire task force goes nuts looking for him, with the AIC of the manhunt permanently assigned to the task when the initial action is over. Doggett goes missing under equally mysterious circumstances, the whole thing is called off within a couple weeks, and the agents in his department are told not to follow up on it!

- Doggettís little scuffle over the shoe was an endless source of amusement the whole episode!

- For that matter, so was Domingoís comment about how pathetic it was for Doggett to put his one shoe back on!

- Doggettís little move disarming the toadie was a wonderful moment, considering that it was a matter of rote memory from his military training, from what I could tell, shining through despite the loss of memory.

- Why did it take 12 days for someone to consider getting the cooperation of the Mexican federal authorities in the manhunt, if they knew that the man Doggett was searching for was tied to a Mexican cartel?

- So Doggett knows engines, hmm? Goes along well with his NASCAR interests, seen in ďEssenceĒ.

- OK, I know that Luke was killed in the summer in the NYC area, but since when is sunlight coming down from that high in the sky at 5:30 in the morning?

- And what the hell was Luke doing outside by himself, riding a bike in the middle of street, before 5:30 in the morning??? No wonder the kid got kidnapped!

- Oh, nice cameo by Mrs. Patrick as Mrs. Doggett. Sure has a nice set of shoulders, I must say...

- ...and a hell of a deep sleeper, too!

- Need I mention how often that tattoo would have shown up, had it actually been there before this episode? Yeah, didnít think so...

- If Doggett needed a jack to work under the bus, and he was still under the bus when he released the jack to pin the toadieís foot/leg, how did Doggett manage not to get trapped under the bus? Wouldnít that suggest that he never needed the jack in the first place?

- Interesting method that the very bad man used to access/strip away memories. Seems familiar somehow, what with the glowing eyes and the use of objects to hold memories. Donít know where I might have come across that, though...hmmm...

- If Monica was born and raised in Mexico, why is her Spanish spoken with an American accent? I imagine that itís the same reason she speaks English without an accent!

- So is the dead man supposed to have been the money laundering dude?

- Not only is Scully once again taking advantage of the worldís best daycare, but sheís apparently out of minutes on her cell phone, because she needed to fly to San Antonio just to give Monica a simple message!

- Think Monica would mind it if Doggett pressed her against the wall under more pleasant circumstances?

- Iím once again struck by the dynamic that hasnít been addressed between the two of them, given that they have this shared history that binds them together, which we know precious little about. I hope they show us more, and that they explore how that past affects their current working relationship. Obviously thereís trust, but what else?

- Iím rather glad that Doggett picked the FBI instead of NJ Transit, given his bus driving skills!

- Wonderful shot of Doggett and Reyes hunched in the bus, with Skinnerís reflection in the glass.

- So are we supposed to assume that Doggettís memory of his son was the catalyst for his memory returning? If so, how exactly did he know about the very bad man, and what he had done?

- Itís a nice ending, though, with Doggettís admission that he would rather keep the terrible memory of his sonís death than lose it forever, if it meant also getting to keep the good memories of the time he had with Luke. Perhaps it is a small step towards the goal of Doggett finally dealing with the death of his son?

- When was the last time that Doggett and/or Reyes headlined an episode, with barely a scene or two with Scully or Skinner? And when was the last time it worked so well?

Overall, this episode was a spirited, inventive return to the strong storytelling that has been missing for much of the season of late. This is the kind of episode that should have followed ďDaemonicusĒ, a strong outing by the new characters, as well as a little exploration of their pasts. One can only hope that this is more than just a blip on the radar.

I give it a 9/10.

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