As written and directed by X-Files vet Darin Morgan, “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” is fully loaded with references and Easter eggs. Were you able to spot them all? Wednesday night’s episode particularly played with real-life history, but cleverly filtered it all through the show’s conspiratorial lens. The result is a funny send-up of The Twilight Zone that also takes a few stabs at President Trump and fake news, as well as the nature of remembering The X-Files with a nostalgic optimism. Let’s count down the best Easter eggs.
Haven’t we seen Reggie already?
First, let’s get a pre-Easter egg (an Ash Wednesday egg?) out of the way. In the second episode of season 11, “This,” Mulder, Scully, and Skinner were looking at the now-digitized X-Files when an unusual photo flipped by. It wasn’t Fox, Dana, or even Doggett (where the heck is Doggett?), but Reggie! Does this mean that Reggie’s rant about being forgotten in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” is true? What other explanation could there be for his ID being on file? Also, if you’re wondering if this little visual nugget will reveal Reggie Something’s last name, keep dreaming. Maybe he never had one.
The X-Files gets meta
Most Easter eggs in The X-Files are subtle details — a name on a tombstone or a building, for example — but “Forehead Sweat” literally cut into a half-dozen episodes from the show’s past to reimagine them with Reggie involved. Of course, Morgan didn’t pick the stinkers. Reggie is there, Forrest Gump–style, during some of the biggest moments in X-Files history, including:
In a truly meta way, the first episode in which we see Reggie was itself a flashback episode — a memory within a memory — season five’s “Unusual Suspects.” That Lone Gunman–heavy chapter flashed back to 1989, and this version imagines that Reggie bought the famous “I Want to Believe” poster way back then. (And was already calling his FBI partner Foxy.) Fun fact: “Unusual Suspects” was written by the now-legendary Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad fame.
In the next shot, we go back to the beginning of the show with that TV-altering moment when Dana Scully knocked on Fox Mulder’s door. Of course, this time, Reggie is there! He waves her away with a curt dismissal: “Move along, sugar-boobs, this is the X-Files. No women allowed.” Is this a reference to Gillian Anderson’s disappointment about the show’s lack of female writers?
“That guy is soooooo creepy,” says Reggie, and anyone who saw this season one episode agrees. A sequel to “Squeeze” from earlier in the same season, “Tooms” takes its name from its title character, Eugene Victor Tooms, played unforgettably by Doug Hutchison. Not only a great stand-alone episode, “Tooms” is memorable for marking the first appearance of Walter Skinner.
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
It wouldn’t be an Easter egg episode without at least one reference to this season-three classic, a fan and production favorite that won Darin Morgan his only Emmy. But this nod feels almost essential to the plot of “Forehead Sweat,” too: It’s a clip of the late, great Peter Boyle imagining a world in which major events didn’t happen, including Columbus sailing to America, the moon landing, and the U.S. invasion of Grenada. That last one gets Reggie’s attention, naturally.
“Teso Dos Bichos”
Wondering where Reggie’s “killer cats” line comes from? It’s this third-season episode, another monster-of-the-week chapter. It’s hard to say why Morgan picked this particular one, but here’s some interesting trivia: Most of the crew and even Kim Manners, the director, hated this episode (and critics weren’t much kinder). Manners even made T-shirts that read “Tesos Dos Bichos Survivor.” Maybe Morgan is trying to reclaim a bad chapter in the show’s history with a bit of Reggie levity.
It’s funny that the modern reboot of The X-Files keeps going back to this episode, given how much Fox once wanted to erase it from history. But there’s Karin Konoval (also in last week’s episode, “Plus One”) as Mrs. Peacock, the matriarch of the incestuous, murderous family that horrified audiences in “Home.” It’s kind of amazing that Reggie ever made it out of that house alive.
This Easter egg is one of the best in X-Files history because it works on so many levels. A season-four episode, “Small Potatoes” was about a shape-shifter named Eddie, who we see in Mulder form about to kiss Scully. In “Forehead Sweat,” Reggie bursts through the door instead of Fox, and Eddie returns to his original form. But instead of just being a sideline player as he is in the other clips, Reggie shoots him. The meta aspect of referencing an episode in which someone pretends to be a member of the X-Files is great, but consider this little fact: Darin Morgan is playing Eddie. That’s the writer being shot by his own delusional creation!
When Reggie is being taken away, the vehicle bears the name Spotnitz Sanitarium, a recurring reference to X-Files legend Frank Spotnitz, a producer on most of the original run of the series and writer of a stunning 44 episodes, as well as the film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
The historical Easter eggs
This episode drops several references to actual events, including the Soy Bomb crasher, the Grenada UFO stamp, and the fact that Dr. Seuss drew political cartoons during WWII. It also allows Morgan a few jabs at President Trump, especially the idea that more people attended the inauguration than actually did. Fake news indeed.
The Twilight Zone
Of course, the whole episode is an homage to The Twilight Zone, with Mulder even doing his best Rod Serling impression. No, Mulder’s favorite episode, “The Lost Martian,” isn’t a real one, but Serling’s show never shied away from imagining life on other planets. And the flashback to the alien giving Mulder a book called “All the Answers” brings to mind the classic episode “To Serve Man,” which also took its title from a volume brought to Earth from outer space. That episode ended with the classic twist that the verb in that title wasn’t being interpreted the right way, which could be a nod to no one really having all the answers, even on The X-Files. (If you’re wondering about Mulder’s discovery of The Dusty Realm in the final act, sorry, it’s not a real show. But The Outer Limits totally is.)
The Shazaam Fantasy
When he’s explaining “the Mandela Effect,” Mulder references the idea that many people swear they saw a movie from the ’90s in which Sinbad played a genie named Shazaam. This is a real, and totally bizarre occurrence, but Shazaam doesn’t exist. They’re thinking of Kazaam with Shaquille O’Neal.
Is that Canada?
It’s not exactly an Easter egg, but we have to mention that weird scene with Dr. They at the art installation in the park. The X-Files producers famously try to hide the fact that they actually shoot in Vancouver, but not so much this week. Instead of a nondescript park or garage, “Forehead Sweat” set this conversation amid a very identifiable art piece by Yue Minjun called “A-maze-ing Laughter.” Is this a reference to an episode that’s deconstructing the show itself? Seems like it.