People Can Be So Tasteless: My Review of Our Town

Often, when one is a fan of something, there are conflicting feelings.

On the one hand, it’s similar to being in love:  you want the whole world to know, and you tend to bore people, as you talk non-stop about your new love.

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On the other hand, you tend to be a little possessive.  Your new love is great.  Really great.  And if something is really great, like chocolate, why would you want to share?  Me, I like having my chocolate all to myself…I may love you, but I am not sharing that chocolate!

Pennywise 1

Well, the above describes my feelings when I started watching The X Files perfectly.  I loved it!  Finally, a show dealing with the supernatural and other kooky topics that no one wanted to talk about, at least on network TV.  And it didn’t hurt that the show’s leads were smoking hot, either!

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But on the other hand, feeling like I was the only person watching it, (well, besides my dad, who actually got me into the show to begin with) made me special.  And the father-daughter bonding was nice too, since I am pretty certain I was either walking 20 feet in front of my parents, or 20 feet behind them, whenever we were seen in any remotely public place.  But we could bond over The X Files, and marvel over just how far the show went this week, what a work of genius it was really was, and that if everyone was cool like us, they would have no problem staying in on Friday nights and hanging with Mulder and Scully!

Mulder and Scully 1

But, like all loves, nothing really stay secret for long.  People began to talk about The X Files. I am not exactly sure when it became more “mainstream”, but I do remember when people began to talk.  And people began to talk for a good reason.

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Yes, the airing of the episode Our Town marked a watershed moment, at least for me, in terms of fandom.  And for good reason:  we actually had a show, on network TV (even it was Fox, which has only begun available as a standard channel relatively recently.  Yes, I am so old that I remember when the Fox network was blacked out…good times!), that dealt with one of the most taboo topics of all time: cannibalism.  Yes, for some reason, the discussion of man eating man is not one that is considered family friendly affair!  So of course our good friend Chris Carter needed to have an episode about it.  And that episode created chatter.  For once, I could talk with my peers and teachers at school, and we could agree on something:  that episode was nasty!

And trust me, that episode has withstood the test of time:  it is still nasty!  I watched it this weekend, and I will still never look at fried chicken the same way again…again, good times!

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Our Town.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Our Town begins with a middle aged man and a young, attractive woman who sneak out in the woods near the town of Dudley, Arkansas, with amorous intentions.  The man has a seizure, but takes some pills for it, and follows the woman out into the woods, as she has run ahead of him.  The man loses sight of the woman, but is attacked by someone in a tribal mask with an ax.  The ax descends up the man, killing him.

The man’s name is George Kearns, who also worked as an inspector for the Chaco Chicken Plant in Dudley, Arkansas, and Agent Mulder and Agent Scully are assigned to investigate his disappearance a few weeks later.  Scully feels that the case is a waste of their time and a diversion from any “real” work, but Mulder argues that the disappearance may have a supernatural cause.

Mulder and Scully investigate place where some unusual fires have been spotted, and find the remains of a large bonfire.  They are interrupted by the local sheriff, Tom Arens, who tells the agents the fires are the result of the locals burning trash illegally.  Sheriff Arens also tells Mulder and Scully that George Kearns was a womanizer, who made himself unpopular in town because he had filed several health code violations against the plant.  The agents also interview Kearns’ wife, Doris, who appears nervous, but unconcerned over her husband’s disappearance.

The next day, Paula Gray, the young woman from the forest, prepares for her shift at the plant.  She appears irritable and nervous, dry swallowing some pills before her shift.  Mulder and Scully visit the plant and question Jess Harold, the shift manager, about George Kearns.  Harold informs the agents that no one was worried about Kearns’ report, as three other inspectors had given the plant excellent ratings. Harold also tells the agent the Kearns had a bone to pick with everyone, including the federal government.  Kearns had also filed a workers’ compensation claim against the plant, claiming that his work gave him terrible headaches.  The conversation is interrupted by Paul, who has begun to hallucinate and has taken Harold hostage, holding a knife to his neck.  Scully attempts to calm the woman, but Sheriff Arens fatally shoots her, and Paula falls into a feed grinder.

After the incident, Scully speaks to the plant doctor, Dr. Randolph.  Dr. Randolph tells her that he had treated both Paula and George for headaches and insomnia, but never made any official diagnosis on either one, as he believed that the symptoms were due to stress.  Scully asks for permission to perform an autopsy on Paula, but his told by the doctor that she will need to ask Walter Chaco, who is the owner of the plant and Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.  Mulder and Scully speak to Mr. Chaco, who reluctantly agrees to allow Scully to perform the autopsy.

Scully examines the remains of Paula, and discovers that she was suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, and had only a few months to live.  It is also discovered that Paula was 47 years old, even though she appeared to be in her mid-twenties.  Mulder wonders if Paula and George both suffered from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, but Scully tells him that would be statistically impossible, as the disease is hereditary and non communicable.  The conversation is interrupted yet again by a van that is wildly swerving on the road.  The van misses the agents, and crashes into the nearby river.  The driver has been exhibiting the same symptoms as George and Paula.

Scully theorizes that George Kearns was killed to keep him silent in regards to any health violations that the plant was committing, and that his body was dumped into the plant’s feed grinder to dispose of it, therefore contaminating the chickens.  Mulder disagrees with the theory, as the chicken meat is a product nation-wide, and that there should have been a nation-wide epidemic of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, as opposed to a local outbreak.

Mulder and Scully speak to the sheriff and request that the river be “dragged.”  The result is the exhumation of a large pile of human bones.  Scully examines the bones and identifies George Kearns among the remains.  Scully also notices the ends of the bones are smooth, as if they have been buffed, and that the skulls are missing.  Mulder thinks that the bones are smooth because they have been boiled, and that the townspeople practice cannibalism.  Scully says that if Mulder is right, the outbreak of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease would have been caused by the townspeople consuming the contaminated remains of George Kearns.  Mulder also notes that 87 people have disappeared from the town over the past several decades, and that all of the disappeared were “outsiders” in some way.  Mulder also thinks that Paula’s youthful appearance can be explained by the cannibalism, as many cultures practiced cannibalism in order to prolong their lifespans.

Dr. Randolph and Harold confer at the plant.  The townspeople are growing uneasy, due to the spread of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and the presence of the FBI agents. Harold promises he will speak to Chaco, who will listen to him.

Harold speaks to Chaco, who reassures him that he can handle the problems.  Doris also pays a visit to Harold, as she has grown tired from keep the town’s secrets and is feeling guilty over her part in her husband’s death.  Chaco reassures her, and tells Doris to go home and get some rest.

Mulder and Scully discover that all the birth records at the town’s courthouse have been burned.  Mulder receives a call from Doris, who tells him she needs to speak to him.  Scully goes to meet Doris, while Mulder heads to Chaco’s house to take Chaco into custody.  However, Doris is murdered by someone in a mask before Scully arrives.

Mulder arrives at Chaco’s house and is told Chaco is not home.  Mulder discovers some interesting memorabilia at Chaco’s house, including a picture of Chaco next to a WWII fighter plan, a human skull and four shrunken heads.  Chaco appears to be the same ago as he was in the pictures of him taken during WWII, which were taken 50 years prior.  It is also revealed that Chaco spent some time in Papua New Guinea with a group of people known to practice cannibalism.  Mulder receives a call from Scully, who tells him she is at Doris’ house but cannot find Doris.  However, Chaco is hiding in the house and attacks Scully, and Scully’s phone goes silent.

Chaco arrives at a town meeting, where the townspeople are lined up to receive portions of a “stew,” with Scully as his captive.  Chaco tells the people of the town that they have lost control and should not have killed Doris.  Harold tells Chaco that he is no longer fit to be town leader, and disarms Chaco of his gun.  Chaco is then forced into a metal harness and decapitated.

Scully is then placed into a metal harness.  However, Mulder shows up just in time and shoots her would-be executioner.  None of the townspeople are arrested, as most of them flee the scene while Mulder is busy freeing Scully.  Mulder and Scully remove the mask from her would-be executioner, who is revealed to be Sheriff Arens.

The chicken plant is closed by the Arkansas authorities.  Before the plant is closed, a worker is seen emptying a bucket of chicken feed from the trough and carrying it to the chickens.  The worker reaches into the feed and finds a clump of gray hair (presumably belonging to Walter Chaco).  The worker shrugs and continues to feed the chickens.


 

My Thoughts

First of all, I would just like to congratulate myself on the timing of this re-watch, given all the jokes and memes about snacks and how some people are just poor planners

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Maybe those folks should save themselves the trouble and just pay a visit to Dudley, Arkansas…no shortage of snacks there!  The people there are always willing to have you for dinner!

Our Town 4

Oh wait, they want someone to bring them snacks, not to be the snacks…well, it was a worth a try, anyway!

Our Town is a disturbing, creepy and even one of the more disgusting episodes of The X Files.  And it’s also hilarious!

Yes, you heard me right…it is hilarious.  Like in so many other episodes that deal with gross and even taboo topics, Our Town contains some much needed humor.

One of my favorite funny scenes is when the agents come to the realization of what is really going on in Dudley, and realize that they have to take action.  Scully apparently got the munchies and brought in a big bucket of chicken.  And the look on her face when she drops that chicken like it’s a grenade…you couldn’t pay her to eat anywhere in Dudley after that point…I loved it!

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Believe it or not, Our Town was a episode that was also a ‘shipper’s dream…

Yes, a ‘shipper.  There, I said it…

A ‘shipper, for the uninitiated is someone who believes that your protagonists, who pretend to be just friends, keeping it strictly platonic, blah blah, should become a couple.  And, in the case of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, the ‘shippers were on to something, as the chemistry between was just unbelievable.  For years, Mulder and Scully were my favorite television “not a couple.”

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And it was episodes like Our Town that made me long for the ‘ship…

The look on Mulder’s face when Scully’s call cuts off…we know that Scully had been abducted, and was probably still dealing with the trauma from that abduction.  And Mulder was also dealing with that trauma as well.  You could practically hear his thoughts, as he raced to save Scully from those horrible people who couldn’t be bothered to bring their own snacks, as FBI agents would do just fine, thank you.  The rescue and look on Mulder’s face once he frees Scully from her captor…well, that momentarily made me long for the ‘ship that could be!

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Ok, you have read this far, so let’s get to the good stuff already!

Yes, the cannibalism.  Since you know that’s what you really want to talk about!

Cannibalism is gross.  Cannibalism is gruesome.  Cannibalism actually scares me shitless.

So, of course I have to joke about it…don’t worry, it’s all in good taste (see what I did there)!

Human flesh can be the ultimate snack, at times…

Survivor Type 1

Sometimes, you just get a taste for “long pork“…

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Or those friends (who shall remain anonymous, now that they are blog fodder) who tell you that if you get stranded on a desert island with them, they will have no qualms about resorting to cannibalism if necessary!

On a side note, boiling a ham bone to make a stock after watching this episode is not recommended.  Trust me, your mind will conjure some unpleasant images…or is that just me?

But cannibalism really does scare me to death (hence the horrible jokes).  Humans eating other humans is another taboo, ranking up there (or maybe down there) with incest.  Any movie or show that deals with cannibalism is sure to come with some sort of warning label, and for a good reason:  the thought of humans eating their own kind is just horrifying!

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If any species had to resort to cannibalism, that particular species would not survive for very long.  After all, if you can’t find a food source, then you probably don’t deserve to survive, after all.  So, like incest, cannibalism had to become taboo, to ensure survival as a species.  And the distaste for it is almost instinctive:  I remember finding out that cannibalism existed when I was around 7 or 8, and being absolutely horrified.  This caused me many a nightmare, and the subject still horrifies me to this day.

Our Town 2

But although cannibalism is taboo, it also seems to have a bad ass quality about it.  Several tribes throughout history have been known to consume the remains of their enemies.  Sometimes this was done because people believed that by consuming the remains of an enemy, that the powers of the enemies would be passed on to them, strengthening their powers that much more.  However, sometimes cannibalism was practiced as the ultimate act of disrespect, or the final “fuck you” to the enemies.  In other words, it wasn’t enough that the enemies were dead, they needed to be consumed as well, so that they could not be given a proper burial and safe passage to the afterlife.  Also, some people believed (like the tribe mentioned in this episode), that by practicing cannibalism, they would obtain eternal life, or at least slow the aging process.  And we are all afraid of death.  However, some are more afraid than others, and will resort to extreme tactics to avoid or at least slow down the inevitable.

Humans are at the top of the food chain (or would like to believe so, at least).  And no species want to lose that spot on the food chain.  So we take measures to make certain acts, like cannibalism, repulsive.  In other words, we make it a taboo, so that it does not become acceptable.  Mostly, it works.  But sometimes, people forgot.  And the forgetting would have consequences which were sometimes dire.  However, dire consequences are needed, lest we become, in the words Walter Chaco, “not worth saving.”

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Well, that’s a wrap for Our Town…I hope this post was in good taste (ok, I will stop now…maybe)!

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Join me next week, as we review and dissect another classic, Darkness Falls.

Tune in next week…same Bat time, same Bat channel!

batman and robin

 

 

 

 

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