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Recap / The X-Files S06 E19 "The Unnatural"

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Season 6, Episode 19:

The Unnatural
Written and directed by David Duchovny

Mulder: Let me get this straight: a free-spirited alien fell in love with baseball and ran away from the other non-fun-having aliens and made himself black, because that would prevent him from getting to the majors where his unspeakable secret might be discovered by an intrusive press and public and you're also implying that...
Arthur: You certainly have a knack for turning chicken salad into chicken spit.

An old photograph takes Mulder back to Arthur Dales, the Father of the X-Files. It turns out the photo is actually of Dales's brother (M. Emmet Walsh), also named Arthur, who tells Mulder about a case in Roswell in the 1940s involving an alien (Jesse L. Martin) who just wanted to play baseball.


  • Alien Blood: When Exley is struck in the head by a baseball, a few drops of greenish, highly acidic blood are left on a catcher's mitt that had been used to cushion his head. When he's killed by the Alien Bounty Hunter, after declaring that his human face "is my true face", he bleeds differently...
    (Arthur Dales cradles the dying Josh Exley, and moves to check his wound)
    Exley: Arthur, don't touch it! Our blood is like acid to you people! Get away, Arthur! Just get away!
    Arthur: It's just blood, Ex... Look. It's just blood...
    Exley: (looks at the red human blood on his fingertips in wonder and awe) ... How? (smiles, laughs, and dies)
  • Ambiguously Human: "Poor Boy", the kid who delivers Arthur's "medicine" and shags baseballs for Mulder in the final scene. Also appeared in the flashbacks with Exley in the 1940's, and looked exactly the same, even wearing the same clothes. Although Mulder may well have been imagining him into the flashbacks, the story being told from how Mulder imagined it happening.
  • Ambiguous Situation: A shocked Exley realising that his blood has become harmless human red (instead of the aliens' usual toxic green, fatal to any human who gets near it) in his dying moments is unusual and unique, as it is not consistent with the deaths of other green-blooded aliens who were killed in their human forms across the series. Clearly, the implication is that he chose to die as a human rather than an alien or Divine Intervention, but whether this is literally true or a case of unreliable narration from Arthur is ambiguous. Whatever happened, he is genuinely upset about it after telling his story to Mulder.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The Alien Bounty Hunter effortlessly tracks down and murders Josh Exley to protect the project, along with a scientist to cover up his studying of the alien blood, cleaning up for the Colonists. Though Exley wins the moral victory, defying him and the Colonists, dying with dignity and becoming a human before his death.
  • Baseball Episode: Mulder is fond of baseball. Who knew? He bonds with an older cop who tells him a story about fun-loving alien who chose to be a human and play baseball.
  • Becoming the Mask: Exley.
    Exley: See, there's something you got to understand about my race. We don't have a word for laughter. We don't laugh. I don't know if you noticed in between all that fainting you was doing but we have very tiny mouths, so no smiling even. I tell you, when I saw that baseball game being played this laughter just... it just rose up out of me. You know, the sound the ball makes when it hits the bat? It was like music to me. You know, the smell of the grass, eleven men— first unnecessary thing I ever done in my life and I fell in love. I didn't know the unnecessary could feel so good. You know, the game was meaningless but it seemed to mean everything to me. It was useless, but perfect. Tell you, from that moment on... I just couldn't fix myself to go home.
  • Become a Real Boy: Exley becomes human just before he dies.
    Alien Bounty Hunter: As your executioner, I show you my true face before I kill you. [shapeshifts into his alien form] Show me your true face, or you will die without honor.
    Exley: [remaining human] This is my true face...
    Alien Bounty Hunter: ...So be it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Strongly on the "bitter" side, since the Alien Bounty Hunter succeeds in assassinating Exley whom he was after. Nonetheless, Exley wins the moral victory by dying as a human, in his beloved human form and, surprisingly, bleeding red human blood (as opposed to alien acidic blood).
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Alien Bounty Hunter is confused and offended by Exley's actions, and holds to their own race's concepts of honour and dignity. Exley doesn't really seem to hate him for it, and submits to death at his hands.
    Alien Bounty Hunter: I warned you, you didn't listen. Now you die.
    Exley: ...It's the right thing to do.
    Alien Bounty Hunter: What do you know about the right thing to do? You, who would risk exposing the entire project for a game? A game?!
  • Category Traitor: The Alien Bounty Hunter sees Exley as this, since he fell in love with the game of baseball and decided to stay on Earth and live his life as a human.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Baseball-and-humans-loving alien Josh Exley dies happy because he became a human, after being murdered by the Alien Bounty Hunter. His friend, young Arthur Dales, holds him in his arms as he weakens and dies.
  • Double Entendre: When Mulder is teaching Scully to hold the baseball bat:
    Mulder: (as he and Scully are both tightly gripping a long wooden rod): Not a bad piece of ash.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Alien Bounty Hunter shows a rare moment of emotion in his bemused contempt towards Exley's love of baseball, and cannot understand why this meaningless human game means so much to him. For contrast, Exley and Arthur had formed a genuine, interspecies friendship over their shared interpretation of and appreciation for baseball.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: When the Alien Bounty Hunter disguises himself as Exley and confronts the scientist examining the acid blood on Exley's mitt. The scientist asks where it's from and the disguised hunter replies in a deadpan voice that it is from Mars. The scientist laughs, and the deadpan Alien Bounty Hunter 'corrects' himself by saying it is from 'somewhere off to the left of Mars', before murdering the scientist and framing Exley.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The Alien Bounty Hunter tells Exley to morph into his true form for his execution, so that he can die with the alien's version of honour and dignity. Exley refuses, and dies with human honor and dignity instead.
  • Faint in Shock: Played for laughs when Dales, the cop protagonist, sees Exley's true alien form for the first time. The alien keeps trying to wake him up to explain things, but as soon as the cop does so he passes out again. And again. And again.
    Exley: This is ridiculous...
  • Game of Nerds: "Reading the box scores, Scully. You'd like it. It's like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947. It's like the numbers talk to me, they comfort me. They tell me that even though lots of things can change some things do remain the same."
  • Go Out with a Smile: Exley smiles and laughs softly when he realizes he's bleeding human blood, not alien acidic blood.
  • Hands-On Approach: Mulder teaches Scully how to play baseball. She likes it.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Mulder bets that the air in his mouth tastes better than Scully's Nonfat Tofutti Rice Dreamsicle.
  • Jerkass: This generation's FBI agents with an insight into the paranormal are rather more caustic and condescending than we're used to.
  • Mars Needs Women: Discussed but defied. Arthur guesses that Exley chose to live like a human because he "fell in love with an Earth woman", but Exley just laughs at this.
    Exley: No. I saw a baseball game.
  • Odd Friendship: A baseball-loving alien masquerading as a black local star player strikes up a friendship with an inquisitive, goodhearted white cop determined to find out the secret that's keeping the clearly talented man humble and minor league. Once the truth comes out and after the initial shock the two bond over their mutual love of the game and share an understanding that transcends their races.
  • Oh, Crap!: Poor Exley has this silent reaction to seeing the Alien Bounty Hunter standing silently in the distance staring at him when he gets off a bus, waiting to warn him.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted as a way to explain the change of actors for Arthur Dales from Darren McGavin to M. Emmett Walsh; McGavin was having health issues and was unable to reprise his role. Turns out this Arthur Dales is the other one's brother. Yes, they are both named Arthur. They also had a sister and goldfish named Arthur, as well.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The KKK show up to harass the black players during the opening game, but neither the black nor the white team is having any of this. Averted with their newest member, the Alien Bounty Hunter himself, who clearly couldn't care less about America's racial tension, or the human race at all (beyond killing us all in a few decades), and is only there to uphold the aliens' laws.
  • Porn Stash: Talking to Scully in a self-deprecating way while teaching her to play baseball.
    Mulder: What you may find is you concentrate on hitting that little ball, the rest of the world just fades away - all your everyday, nagging concerns; the ticking of your biological clock; how you probably couldn't afford that nice, new suede coat on a G-Woman's salary; how you threw away a promising career in medicine to hunt aliens with a crackpot, albeit brilliant, partner; getting into the heart of a global conspiracy; your obscenely overdue triple-X bill. Oh, I... I'm sorry, Scully. Those last two problems are mine, not yours.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: Mulder and Scully in the post-opening-credits scene.
    Scully: I don't care. Mulder, this is a needle in a haystack. These poor souls have been dead for 50 years. Let them rest in peace. Let sleeping dogs lie.
    Mulder: No, I won't sit idly by as you hurl cliches at me. Preparation is the father of inspiration.
    Scully: Necessity is the mother of invention.
    Mulder: The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
    Scully: (taking a bite of a diet ice cream cone) Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
    Mulder: I scream, you scream, we all scream for nonfat tofutti rice dreamsicles. (grabs Scully's ice cream cone and takes a bite.)
  • Ship Tease: Lots in this episode, culminating in the above Hands-On Approach to baseball.
  • Shout-Out: The title is a riff on the baseball movie The Natural.
  • The Klan: Not just the Klan, but the Klan headed by an alien Bounty Hunter. The hunter wants to assassinate Exley because he sees him as a "traitor" to his race, and the other Klan members want to do the same just because Exley is black.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Dales tells Mulder to "trust the tale and not the teller", but this effect has more to do to the fact that what we are seeing is actually what Mulder is visualizing in his head while the tale is being told.
  • Wham Shot: Several. The Klan member's hood being torn off, revealing a Grey Alien under it. The reveal the police officer Arthur Dales is talking to about Exley's past on the phone with is the Alien Bounty Hunter. Exley's reflection on the bus being a Grey Alien. And Exley's green acidic blood at the end revealed to be a human red.

♫ Come and go with me to that land
Where I'm bound. ♫