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The X-Files - 'The Goldberg Variation'
By Kenneth Silber
Opinions Editor
posted: 01:10 pm ET
19 August 2000

TV Review: The X-Files - 'The Goldberg Variation'

Mulder and Scully encounter a man who seems to be preternaturally lucky -- but his good luck may come at the expense of those around him.

Additional credits
written by Jeffrey Bell
directed by Thomas J. Wright

What happened
Chicago. A smoke-filled room. A nebbish is playing poker at a table of tough-looking men. He seems to know little about the game, yet ends up with chips worth "100 large." Unfortunately, his co-players are mobsters, and angry ones at that. Two thugs take him up to the roof of the high building and toss him over the edge.

The man falls screaming and lands in an open manhole. No one could be expected to survive. Yet moments later he climbs out and walks away, only slightly hurt.... (more extensive spoilers)
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Quotable moments
: How does it feel to be the luckiest man in the universe, Henry?
Weems: It's a nightmare. You have no idea.
Mulder: No, I do. Because when you get lucky -- really, really lucky -- people around you tend to suffer. Is that right?
Weems: I think it's a balance thing. Something good happens to me, and everybody else has to take it in the keister.

"The Goldberg Variation" is a clever, witty standout from the recent middling run of X-Files episodes.

The unassuming Weems makes for an appealing character, and his preternatural luck has a certain originality -- something lacking in the agent's recent encounters with overly familiar mutants and monsters.

Nonetheless, as with many X-Files episodes, this one is weakened by the suspicious ease with which Mulder gains insight into the case. Moreover, Scully's skepticism is not well-drawn; it comes as a bit of a surprise late in the episode to find that she still doubts that Weems' fortuitousness is something unusual.

As yet another standalone episode, "The Goldberg Variation" bears no clear connection to the series' "mythology arc" of aliens and conspiracies. Even so, there are hints that Weems' luck draws upon cosmic forces that have yet to be played out -- that "everything happens for a reason," as the humble superintendent says.

Dangling plot threads
Have the agents' fortunes in life been permanently altered by their contact with Weems?

What exactly will it mean if Weems' "luck is changing"? Can he still win lotteries?

Reality check
No explanation is offered for Weems' good fortune or the ill effects on those around him. All we are left with are the man's own laconic statement that "it's a balance thing."

Tune in next week
Lily Tomlin takes an active role in the X-Files in the special holiday episode "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas", a repeat from last year.

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