''I think of her as a Mata Hari,'' says Laurie Holden of Marita Covarrubias, her enigmatic alter ego on The X-Files. ''You can't really read what she's saying or what her intentions are.''
Duh! This is, after all, the poster show for deception, obfuscation, and inveiglement. And fans can look forward to becoming even more perplexed: On April 27, at episode's end, we learn that the U.N. operative who has served as a clandestine information source and facilitator to Agent Mulder is actually in league with his enemies, the diabolical Syndicate. Or is she?
''If I had an answer myself, I'd tell you. But I think the audience is going to say, 'Watch out, Mulder,''' says executive producer Howard Gordon, who cowrote the episode. ''Basically, that's the idea to sort of load the gun and see what happens when it's fired.''
The 25-year-old, Toronto-reared Holden snagged the Covarrubias role last summer and debuted in this season's opener. In true X fashion, the character was and is as vaguely sketched for her as it is for the audience. ''When I auditioned, I couldn't get a script. It was very hush-hush,'' says Holden, a 1993 UCLA grad who studied acting with the late Robert Reed (the legendary Brady Bunch patriarch). ''All I knew was that it was a woman who worked at the U.N. who had an air of 'intelligent seriousness.' They've always said to me, 'Keep the mystery.'''
That she has, tantalizing the show's more fervent devotees, who convene on-line to speculate on her place in the grand conspiratorial scheme of things. (Two theories: Covarrubias is actually an alien; not only that, she's a mutated embodiment of Mulder's abducted sister.) Rumors of offscreen grousing by David Duchovny to provide his Mulder with an on-screen love interest have also fueled suspicion that Holden was cast as more than a successor to previous would-be allies X and Deep Throat. While Gordon denies this scenario, Holden believes her character wouldn't mind a little hanky-panky: ''He is very attractive. But any attraction is overridden by the greater task at hand...so far.''
Gordon calls Holden's Covarrubias ''sultry and brooding. It's an arch part that's difficult to pull off believably.'' Sound like Mulder? In that way, Covarrubias is a perfect match. Should they hook up, however, Holden might want to brace herself for a backlash from fans protective of Mulder and Scully's sublime, if sublimated, bond. On being told that bodacious guest star Bobbie Phillips' character a brief flirtation for Mulder in the roach-infested ''War of the Coprophages'' was the target of considerable venom at an X-Files convention, Holden shrieks, ''Oh God! I'd better get an unlisted phone number.'' Mulder would insist.