"Syzygy" is the thirteenth episode of the third season of The X-Files. It was written by series creator Chris Carter and directed by Rob Bowman, and first aired on January 12, 1996 on the Fox network. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, separate from the series' Mythology arc.
In Comity, New Hampshire, a group of high school students hold a eulogy for their dead friend, the purported victim of a local Satanic cult. Two girls, Terri Roberts and Margi Kleinjan, get a ride home from a jock, Jay "Boom" DeBoom (Ryan Reynolds). During the drive, the girls tell Boom that the cult seeks a blonde virgin as a next victim, convincing him to turn off the road. The next day, the police find Boom hanging from a cliff. Out of sight of the police, Terri and Margi sit at the top, laughing.
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) arrive in Comity after arguing over directions along the way. They meet a local detective, Angela White, and go to Boom's funeral. Scully, in a bad mood, is skeptical of these claims. The high school principal, Bob Spitz, interrupts the funeral by ranting Inquisitorial-style about Satanic cults murdering their children when suddenly the coffin starts smoking and catches on fire. Mulder and Scully go into separate rooms to interview Margi and Terri, both of whom offer an identical story about a satanic ceremony where a baby was sacrificed. Scully thinks their stories are cliché and points out the fact that the belief in a satanic conspiracy is illogical and paranoid. Looking at the latest victim's body, Mulder and Detective White find a burn mark in the shape of a horned beast; Scully says she doesn't see anything. Mulder goes to see White to apologize for Scully's behavior and the two visit the local astrologist Madame Zirinka who claims the town's crazy behavior is due to the rare planetary alignment of the planets Mars, Uranus, and Mercury. Terri and Margi watch basketball practice, lusting over one of the players, Scott, whose girlfriend is fellow cheerleader Brenda (much to Terri and Margi's displeasure). One of the other players accidentally spills a table of drinks on them, so they cause the basketball to bounce underneath the bleachers and it closes when he goes to get it, killing him. Scully is angry at Mulder for ditching her to be with Detective White.
A town mob searches for a mass grave in the woods and finds a bag belonging to the town pediatrician filled with bones, which Spitz mistakenly assumes belonged to a child. The angry mob goes to see the doctor, who claims the bag was sold. The bones end up belonging to "Mr. Tippy", a dog that belonged to Terri. Scully gets upset over a joke Mulder makes and tells him she's returning to Washington. Margi and Terri celebrate their birthday and Brenda uses a Ouija board to know who she will marry; everyone thinks it's Scott before the planchette veers away from the C and spells out Satan. Upset, Brenda rushes to the bathroom where Margi and Terri are chanting "Bloody Mary" and is locked in, killed by glass from a shattered mirror. Detective White heads to Mulder's hotel room because she found a box which inside had her cat's collar, and then she makes a romantic gesture towards Mulder but they are interrupted by Scully who informs them about Brenda's death. Terri and Margi try to console Scott, who tells them off. Turned down, Terri is mad at him but Margi still likes him and leaves.
Mulder goes to visit Madame Zirinka again, who tells him that the planets come into alignment like this only once every 84 years, and additional alignments will cause anyone born on January 12, 1979 (Margi and Terri's birthdate) to have all the energy in the cosmos focused on them. Margi goes to see Scott alone but an angry Terri arrives. The two argue with each other and end up accidentally killing Scott as they cause objects and implements to fly about. Confronted with his accidental death, they both blame each other murderers. Margi immediately goes to Mulder, telling him that Terri is responsible for all the murders, while Terri goes to see Scully and tells her the opposite. The agents call each other and bring both girls to the police station, where the place starts shaking and all the guns go off on their own endangering everyone in the office who barely escape being shot dead. Mulder first separates the girls, then locks them in a room together and their power ceases completely once the clock ticks midnight; leaving the girls a docile, sobbing heap, clutching tightly to each other in the far corner of the room. When the town mob and Detective White finally see the now seemingly-innocent Terri and Margi as the culprits, Spitz, at a loss for any logical explanation, immediately claims it was indeed the work of Satan, oblivious to the cosmic alignment's energy.
Mulder and Scully drive home, arguing again over directions or any tiny thing; when Scully defiantly runs a stop sign, Mulder notifies her but she tells him to shut up, which he does.
This episode established the popular phrase among The X-Files community, "Sure. Fine. Whatever," spoken multiple times by Scully in the episode. A group of fans in San Francisco even had a line of t-shirts made with the phrase printed on them.
This is the first episode in which Scully is seen smoking.
In this episode, Scully expresses annoyance that Mulder is always the one to drive (although Scully is shown driving in "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"). This was a nod by the show's producers to the X-Phile community, which had long been asking that question on various forums. Ironically, the reference outraged many X-Philes for Mulder's condescending response ("I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals."). In fact, the episode as a whole was controversial upon first airing for depicting a Mulder and Scully radically different to their usual selves (constantly bickering and coldly sarcastic). Chris Carter has maintained that critics didn't realize the episode was meant to be a send-up of things that fans had continually complained about.
The song playing when the Keystone Cops appear on all channels of the motel room TV's (and later on in the Police Station mayhem) is "The Sabre Dance" by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian.
The song playing during the birthday party is Live's "All Over You".
The song playing while Terri and Margi are talking to Scott in the diner is "Deep" by Danzig.
Ryan Reynolds, plays Jay "Da Boom", here in an early mid-teens role, went on to play roles in movies such as Waiting, Harold & Kumar, and Van Wilder as well as the TV series Two Guys and a Girl.
After appearing in an episode with Satanic overtones, Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Terri Roberts, would go on to play Laurie Forman in That 70's Show, a character repeatedly referred to as "The Devil". Her father in that show, Kurtwood Smith, would appear in the following episode, "Grotesque," as an FBI agent obsessed with hunting down a serial killer who appeared to be possessed by a demon.
Guest star Gabrielle Miller also appeared in the Season 2 episode "Our Town" as Chaco Chicken worker Paula, who lures Det. George Kearns, into the woods in the beginning.
There are a few references to this episode in The X-Files video game: the motel in the game is the Comity motel, and the lead character in the game is Craig Willmore, mentioned as one of the basketball players during practice.
The original script called for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange to be playing on every channel as Mulder and Scully played with the remote controls in their hotel rooms, but the footage proved to be so expensive that the producer settled for clips from the Keystone Cops.
The name of the episode, "Syzygy", is an astronomical term for an alignment of three bodies of the solar system along a straight or nearly straight line.
The name of the town, 'Comity', also means 'courtesy'. As we watch Mulder and Scully enter the town, on the other side of the intersection we see a road sign that says 'Leaving Comity' (how true, once they enter, no one is civil to each other). As they leave, the camera passes the road sign that states 'Entering Comity' (thankfully true again, since everything goes back to normal after they leave).
Grover Cleveland Alexander High School is a reference to a question David Duchovny missed on Celebrity Jeopardy. David said after that he thought he was still on the sports section. He confused the pitcher (Alexander) with the president (Grover Cleveland).
The school mascot is a two horned goat, which is often used in Satanic rituals to represent Satan.
There are numerous similarities between this episode and the events that occurred in the famed Salem, Mass. trials in the colonial era. A group of teen girls began accusing people of witchcraft and the town became so hyped that several people were hung for the crime. Arthur Miller's The Crucible is not historically accurate, but captures the general feeling of that time. His play was an allegory of the McCarthy trials, which showed similar hysteria over a perceived threat. In the tradition of X-Files, of course, there was an actual threat in this episode, not just a perceived one.
22:54 As girls sit around the Ouija board the shadow of the camera is visible on several of them, on the left side of the shot.
15:40 the player runs into the table with the drinks on it, when shot from behind he stands up, but when shot goes to front for his line, he is back on the table 15:43.
The planetary alignment which was stated to be the cause of the problems was between Mercury, Mars and Uranus. The alignment was shown onscreen in the episode and was depicted at night near a full moon. A full moon is always opposite from the sun and so Mercury could never be in a visual alignment with a full moon. Additionally, Uranus is not visible with the naked eye.
When Scully arrives to investigate the kid who was crushed by the bleachers the time stamp says 5:10AM. It seems strange that the investigation would start the next morning, unless the high school holds basketball practice at 3:00 in the morning.
Scully says that she has been working with Mulder for 2 years. The date of the Pilot episode is March 1992, which would make it at least 4 years since she was assigned to the X-Files.
When the two girls go into the bar to tell their latest prey that they're not dressed up for the funeral, one of them mentions they are there to give him a good time that evening - carpe pm. This is a very clever allusion and pun of the Latin phrase Carpe Diem or seize the day - or in other words 'go for it'.
Cast and Characters
- Garry Davey (Bob Spitz) previously played Hunter in The X-Files episodes "Eve", Dr. Keats in "Roland" and Captain in "End Game".
- Gabrielle Miller (Brenda Jaycee Summerfield) previously played Paula Gray in The X-Files episodes "Our Town".
- Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Detective Angela White
- Wendy Benson as Margi Kleinjan
- Lisa Robin Kelly as Terri Roberts
- Garry Davey as Bob Spitz
- Ryan Reynolds as Jay "Boom" DeBoom
- Tim Dixon as Dr. Richard W. Godfrey
- Ryk Brown as Minister
- Jeremy Radick as Young Man
- Russell Porter as Scott Simmons