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The X-Files - 'Amazing Maleeni'
posted: 01:10 pm ET
09 June 2000


Mulder and Scully investigate the death of a magician whose last performance included the remarkable feat of turning his head completely around.

(originally aired January 16, 2000)

Quotable Moments
Mulder: Neat trick, huh?

Scully: I can think of a neater one. How you convinced me to drop everything and get on the first plane to Los Angeles.

Mulder: C'mon, Scully. This isn't intriguing enough for you? A magician turns hishead completely around, 360 degrees, to the delight of young and old alike, after which it plops unceremoniously onto the [floor].

Mulder: Those [tricks] are great, but I don't see how they're any different or better than the ones Maleeni did.

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Spoilers: The X-Files - 'Amazing Maleeni'

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The X-Files (official)

Society of American Magicians

LaBonge: Mozart and Salieri -- they sound pretty much the same to a layman. Butthey ain't. You know what I'm saying? It's about originality, style, and more than anything else, soul. Because that's what separates the great ones from the hacks. We can't do this halfway. We're dealing with powerful forces at work here.Energies far beyond our mere, mortal understanding.

Additional credits

Ricky Jay -- the Great Maleeni
Jonathan Levit -- Billy LaBonge
Robert LaSordo -- Sissy Alvarez
written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz
directed by Thomas J. Wright

What happened

An amusement park. A tuxedoed magician, the Amazing Maleeni, receives disheartening news from a park manager that he'll only be paid $75 for his act, but still promises it will be his "greatest show ever." He goes on stage before a small outdoor audience, only to suffer the insults of a 20-something heckler.

Maleeni, goaded into displaying his full professional capability, undertakes to perform a trick that he says has ended in tragedy for three earlier magicians. He then spins his head completely around. The audience applauds, but the heckler seems unimpressed.

Soon, the magician is sitting in his van. The park manager tries to hand him his paltry fee, but Maleeni seems to be asleep. The manager taps him -- and Maleeni's head falls off.... (more extensive spoilers)


"The Amazing Maleeni" is a convoluted episode that ultimately lacks verve and excitement. Even if one can figure out what is going on, there remains the question of how much, or even whether, to care.

Granted, the seeming lack of paranormal phenomena -- the head-spinning may simply be a magic trick, albeit one without clear explanation -- provides a certain fleeting novelty, but many viewers will be unable to give these small potatoes their full attention compared to the extraterrestrial and demonic powers manifest at other times in the series.

Indeed, when LaBonge pontificates about how "powerful forces are at work," it merely underscores the trivial nature of the proceedings. And it raises the worrying question of whether Mulder and Scully are distracted from more important challenges confronting humanity.

Dangling plot threads

How was the head-spinning trick done? What is its relation, if any, to the wrist-spinning trick?

Will the magicians abandon their criminal ways now that their modus operandi has been detected?

Will Alvarez be convicted only on genuine charges, or on trumped-up ones as well?

Reality check

The camera never quite shows Maleeni's head spinning 360 degrees. It is merely strongly implied through editing.

Tune in next week

Mulder and Scully meet snake handlers in "Signs and Wonders", which promises to be yet another non-extraterrestrial episode but may still be amusing on its own merits.

What do you think? Send comments to the author or editor.

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