Follow TV Tropes


Recap / The X-Files S03 E20 "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'"

Go To

Index | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
Season 3, Episode 20:

Jose Chung's From Outer Space
"So you're here to get my version of the truth?"
Written by Darin Morgan
Directed by Rob Bowman

"I spent three months in Klass County and everybody there has a different version of what truly happened. Truth is as subjective as reality."
Jose Chung

Jose Chung, a novelist who is writing a book about alien abductions, interviews several people involved in an alien abduction case, including Scully and Mulder. They give wildly and sometimes hilariously varying descriptions of what happened.


  • Absurdism: One of the most notable examples of this philosophy on television, this episode actually has a serious message under all the comedy: it's about the conflict between the innate human desire to make connections with others and the fact that we are ultimately isolated by the subjective nature of our own perceptions.
  • Alien Abduction
    • This episode crams nearly every variation of abduction stories (and their possible explanations) into one narrative.
    • It even begins with an alien abduction being interrupted by... an alien abduction.
  • Alien Autopsy: According to Scully's interpretation of events, an autopsy which she performed on an alien and allowed to be video taped became commercially released as Dead Alien! Truth Or Humbug?. Embarrassed by it, Scully complains that the video ignores several of her findings, chief among them being that the dead alien was revealed to be a Man in a Rubber Suit. This was a parody of the recent (at the time) Alien Autopsy film of 1995 (which claimed to be real but was, naturally, a hoax).
  • Aliens Speaking English: Both Lord Kinbote and the two Grey aliens. Except the Greys turn out to be human beings.
  • Anal Probing: Played With. It's Scully's opinion that a young couple whom Mulder believes were abducted by aliens were only engaging in sexual activity before they're old enough to handle it. Mulder, not seeing how this could discredit the girl's interpretation of events as revealed under hypnosis (which resembles the typical Alien Abduction story), asks his partner, "So what if they had sex?" to which Scully responds, "So we know it wasn't an alien that probed her."
  • Arc Words: Among several repeated phrases through the episode, the most prominent is "How the hell should I know?"
  • Better than Sex:
    Lt. Schaefer: Have you ever flown a flying saucer? Afterwards, sex seems trite.
  • Brand X: Chung's publisher is owned by a defense contractor called MacDougall Kessler, an obvious stand-in for McDonnell Douglas.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Zig-Zagged. Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek and wrestler/future governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura appeared in the roles of The Men in Black. The man in black played by Ventura was described as "creepy," while the one played by Trebek just "looked like Alex Trebek," which made those reporting them seem all the more crazy.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Apart from Agent Mulder (natch), Blaine Faulkner identifies as a big believer in UFO and alien conspiracies, even exclaiming, "Roswell!" whenever he believes his perceived "right" to know the truth is being infringed.
  • Continuity Nod: Stupendous Yappi, a Phony Psychic who first appeared in "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", appears in a video of the alien autopsy which Scully performed.
  • Curse Cut Short: Jose Chung interrupts Scully when she seems to want to say what Detective Manners really said.
  • Dirty Coward: When Harold and Chrissie are in a cage on an alien (Lord Kinbote's?) ship, he promises her he won't let anything happen to her. The instant the hatch on top of the cage opens, Harold screams, throws himself in the corner, and doesn't lift a finger to stop Chrissie from being dragged away.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Jose Chung smokes a pipe when working at his typewriter.
  • Dull Surprise: Both played straight and subverted at the same time during the scene with Mulder's "girly scream".
    Blane Faulkner: (voiceover; describing Mulder) The tall, lanky one... his face was so blank and expressionless. He didn't even seem human. I- I think he was a mandroid. (Mulder and Scully approach the dead alien) The only time he reacted was when he saw the dead body.
  • Face Palm: Scully has one of these after a bleeping rant by Detective Manners.
  • Fiction as Cover-Up: One given interpretation of the incident(s) being investigated in this episode involves alien abductions being used as a cover to mask a more vague government conspiracy involving classified flight tests for new, experimental Air Force equipment.
    • Mulder suggests this may be the entire point of Chung's book. His publisher is owned by a military contractor and may have put him up to writing it in order to further their disinformation campaign.
  • Fictional Document: The book From Outer Space which is being written by Jose Chung.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: One of The Men in Black repeatedly insists to UFO witness Rory Crikensen that he only saw "the planet Venus".
    MIB 1: No other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus.
    MIB 1: Even the former leader of your United States of America, James Earl Carter, Jr., thought he saw a UFO once, but it's been proven he only saw the planet Venus.
    MIB 1: If you tell anyone that you saw anything other than the planet Venus, you're a dead man!
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The local police, the FBI, the CIA, The Men in Black, and the military.
  • Large Ham: The Man in Black played by Jesse Ventura has a lot of deliberate eccentric behavioral patterns.
  • Meaningful Echo: Multiple phrases often get repeated throughout the episode, adding to the overlapping effect of unreliable narration to what really is happening in Klass County.
  • The Men in Black
    • Two Men in Black pay separate visits to Roky Crikensen, Blaine Faulkner, and Mulder and Scully to with aims to discredit and threaten witnesses.
    • Mulder and Scully themselves are referred to as "Men in Black" by Blaine.
      Blaine: One of them was disguised as a woman, but wasn't pulling it off. Like, her hair was red, but it was a little too red, y'know? And the other one, the tall, lanky one, his face was so blank and expressionless. He didn't even seem human. I think he was a mandroid.
  • Mind Screw: What really happened there, we'll never know.
  • Money, Dear Boy: In-Universe reason why Chung is writing the novel.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Scully is uncomfortable with Detective Manners's cop-mouth.
    Scully: Well, of course, he didn't actually say "bleeped". He said—
    Jose Chung: I'm, uh, familiar with, uh, Detective Manners'... "colorful" phraseology.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Chung is largely based on Truman Capote, with his research trip to Klass County and boasting about creating a "new literary genre" of "non-fiction science fiction" being pretty obvious parallels to the making of In Cold Blood. He's also (like his actor Charles Nelson Reilly) very obviously gay, though this is never directly commented upon.
    • Klass County was named after Philip Klass, a prominent UFO skeptic.
    • Detective Manners was based on show director Kim "Bleeping" Manners, who did curse like that in real life.
  • Prison Rape: Mulder tells Harold that he's likely to experience this. The threat is gentler than you might expect because Mulder is sure that Harold is innocent of taking advantage of Chrissy, and is also trying to get the truth about the UFO.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Every person interviewed by Jose Chung and/or Mulder and Scully offers a different, contradicting interpretation of various events. It is indicated that this is actually be an Invoked Trope, employed by the Syndicate, who are strongly implied to have interfered with the witnesses' memories to make sure they remember the events in broadly similar, yet widely different ways. By creating a bunch of Unreliable Narrators surrounding the events, it makes it hard to get any kind of clear picture of what actually happened.
  • Roman Clef: In-universe, the novel From Outer Space is based on the events of the episode with the names changed. Fox Mulder, for instance, is represented as a character named "Reynard," the French word for "Fox."
  • Room Full of Crazy: The Conspiracy Theorist who believes in aliens and who wants to be abducted in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" has a corner in his room which is a nice foil to Mulder's office. He even has a similar poster but the message reads "I believe".
  • Running Gag: "...You're/I'm a dead man!" Also "I know this sounds / this is going to sound crazy."
  • Self-Deprecation: At a point, the episode takes a jab at the show itself:
    Scully: I know it probably doesn't have the sense of closure that you want, but it has more than some of our other cases.
  • Self-Parody: The episode takes near-constant jabs at the show's characters, narrative structure, and Myth Arc (as well as Fox's Alien Autopsy video, for good measure) and ends with Mulder watching the hoaxed Bigfoot video.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening shot in the Cold Open is framed like the opening shot of A New Hope, which reveals the underside of a passing space ship, only this episode reveals afterward that we are looking at the underside of a cherry picker.
    • Roky Crikenson is a power company lineman who has a close encounter, just like Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
    • The location, Klass County, is in honor of UFO researcher Phil Klass. In the same vein, Lt. Jack Shaeffer and his co-pilot Robert Vallee are named after UFOlogists Robert Schaeffer and Jacques Vallee.
    • The book cover for From Outer Space seen at the end of the episode is a parody of the cover for Whitley Strieber's Communion: A True Story, only with the Grey Alien now smoking a cigarette.
    • Chung mentions one of his previous novels, The Candigarian Candidate, a clear nod to The Manchurian Candidate (especially since they both center around mind control).
    • The appearance of Lord Kinbote is an homage to Ray Harryhausen and his stop-motion model animation and effects work, while his name is taken from a character in Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (a book especially relevant to this episode because both rely heavily on the concept of the Unreliable Narrator).
    • Lt. Shaefer sculpts his mashed potatoes à la Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Detective Manners in Scully's narration.
  • Stylistic Suck: The "third alien", Lord Kinbote, looks like a stop-motion monster from a 50s B-movie, and he talks in Ye Olde Butchered English
  • Unreliable Narrator: Several of them, some of which are having their unreliable narration re-told second hand by another Unreliable Narrator (either Chung or Scully).
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Blank" and "bleep" used to substitute much of Detective Manners' speech, a-hole and many others.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Blaine's sudden realization that the "dead alien" he's recording is a human body in a rubber suit causes him to get sick.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Roky starts a cult based on his encounter, Blaine takes Roky's old job as a power company lineman, Chrissy devotes herself to philanthropy and rejects Harold, Scully reads Chung's book, and Mulder watches videos of Bigfoot alone, shirtless, in bed.

"For although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways on this planet, we are all... alone."