“Squeeze” marks the moment where The X-Files proves it’s scary-as-all-get-out. It marks a point of no return both for the audience and for Mulder and Scully, as far as their partnership goes. It’s also the first masterwork from Glen Morgan and James Wong. With all this going for it, it’s no wonder that when many people think of The X-Files, “Squeeze” is the episode that comes to mind, practically iconic in every way.
The story starts with the show’s best teaser to date, all the more creepy since the action happens off camera. The visual cues in this segment stand the test of time. I myself have seen it literally more times than I can count, but watching those screws turn on their own still gives me chills. Tooms is the bogeyman that no one wants to admit they still believe in. He’s the noise in the house at night that you ignore. He’s the first in a long line of memorable X-Files monsters and villains, memorable because they tug on our latent fears. More than creepiness, there’s another classic X-Files element that makes a first appearance here: the gross-out factor. Tooms trolls sewage systems and sleeps in bile. A monster doesn’t get any more stomach-churning until “The Host” (2×2).
Part of why Tooms is an effective monster is because the writers didn’t try to delve into his psychology. According to what Detective Biggs tells Mulder and Scully, he is some kind of physical manifestation of all human evil. Now isn’t that scarier than giving him a mother complex? Unlike the experimental “Hungry” (7×1), Tooms, as a monster, is left to be as vile as he wants to be. His genetic motives are somewhat explained, but we’re left feeling that he doesn’t kill purely for survival’s sake. However, in keeping with Season 1’s overall sensibility, his exact origins and motivations are left tantalizingly to the imagination.
Another reason Squeeze is scary 17 years after the fact? We see one of the dynamic duo in mortal danger. Sure, “Deep Throat” (1×2) showed Mulder in over his head, drugged and confused. But Scully on the verge of getting her insides ripped out trumps that easily. Fortunately, Scully is no damsel in distress. Sure, Mulder comes to her rescue, but they only succeed in subduing Tooms by tag-teaming him. Not to mention Scully put up a heckuva fight till Mulder got there.
By the end of the episode, we see Mulder and Scully working completely in sync to capture Tooms, a feat not quite managed by either the Pilot where Scully retreats from Mulder in the end or by Deep Throat where Scully ends up exasperated. How is it that this is the episode where they end up feeling like full partners for the first time? How did they get here?
First came Colton. We wonder that he was ever a friend of Scully’s at all. His behavior over lunch makes it clear that he’s an ambitious egoist. Maybe once upon a time, he was an idealistic cadet at the academy. Maybe. Regardless, he comes to Scully ostensibly to give her a shot at glory, but despite his pretence, it becomes clear that this is Colton’s roundabout way of getting Mulder’s help.
On her part, why does Scully look so sad at Colton’s suggestion of her not being Mrs. Spooky, I wonder? No, my fellow sailors aboard the Good Ship, she doth not furrow her brow over the loss of her Romeo. But no doubt she would miss Mulder if she were to leave and would feel like a traitor in no small part. No one but Scully will take Mulder seriously and she instinctively knows it. And if she didn’t know it, Colton and his buddies prove it. As to her righteous indignation at Colton‘s insinuation that she hunts down little green men… who is she kidding? Searching for close encounters is EXACTLY what she does. And as of yet, that’s ALL she’s done since this is the very first Monster of the Week episode. Your offense rings hollow, Scully.
For Mulder’s part, he’s half serious when he asks if she thinks he’s Spooky too. Does Scully see him just like the others? Has she written him off as a crackpot like the rest of the FBI? She doesn’t answer there, but she will over the course of the episode. She’s clearly uncomfortable with the jokes at Mulder’s expense and also seems to be uncomfortable with their comments for another reason; they make her work illegitimate by association. Scully isn’t happy at being classed right along with Mulder. Season 1 Scully was more ambitious than we ever see her again. She had plans for a real career at the Bureau. On the other hand, the loyal side of her won’t allow her to distance herself from him merely for the sake of her career and even her reputation. From her manner at the presentation of her profile, I think it’s evident that part of Scully is trying to be one of the boys. Her air is just this side of arrogant. She fits right in… until they give Mulder that last little dig.
And now for one of the great M/S moments: the scene by the stairs. There is definitely a cementing of their partnership here. It’s something akin to friendship, though I don’t know if I’d quite call it that yet. But Scully does make a conscious decision to stay down in the basement with Mulder rather than join the stuffed shirts above. Personally, I think that decision hinges on Mulder’s little speech. That’s where he proves he actually respects Scully as a person, not just an agent. Let’s call this moment Part 1 of a life-altering choice. Part 2 isn’t until “Tooms” (1×20) when Scully blows up any semblance of a balanced attachment to Mulder the way a 6th grader would a science project.
Whose side is she on? Now it’s the victim’s. Later, I would argue that it’s Mulder’s.
And the Verdict is…
Squeeze is successful because it gives us a memorable villain while fulfilling the audience’s desire for a solid partnership. Over the years, The X-Files got more sophisticated, more dramatic, more polished, but you could argue that it never got better than this.
Mulder’s insatiable need to push people’s buttons? Check.
Mulder and Scully against the world? Check.
A tantalizing hint of M/S luuurve? Check. Check.
An unbelievably creepy villain the memory of which will keep viewers up at night? Check. Check. Checkmate.
If anything, this is the moment where Scully chooses to be Mulder’s partner. In the “Pilot”, she’s been assigned to him and while she expresses some curiosity when it comes to Mulder, she had no input in the matter and no particular interest in the X-Files. “Deep Throat” shows her as the reluctant partner. But in “Squeeze”, she makes a deliberate decision to team up with Mulder. Sure, Colton and crew aren’t exactly an incentive to move to Violent Crimes, but if she wanted to she could’ve used the situation to springboard herself out of the basement, at least, without giving Colton another thought. Not to mention that in the world of The X-Files, at least, Violent Crimes is the department to be in if you really want to be somebody at the Bureau. Ask Mulder. He ditched it.
Scully comes across as the type of agent who would make the best showing she could, wherever she was placed, as a point of honor. She certainly would give any partner her A-game. Squeeze, however, is a sign that things are getting personal for Scully. She could’ve easily given an, “It’s been real Mulder,” and moved on without much to-do, only it wasn’t so easy after all. Why isn’t she more interested in getting out of the X-Files? We’ll ask ourselves that question all season…. she’ll ask it herself all of Season 4.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing that reeks of solidarity like cud-chewing sunflower seeds together.
And a question, why didn’t Mulder call the police when he realized Tooms was stalking Scully? Did he really drive all the way from Baltimore to save her without notifying anyone?? To Georgetown, that has to be 40 minutes minimum in good traffic.
Why the big reveal about the fingerprints after the stairway scene? Mulder had already told Scully about the fingerprints within the first 10 minutes of the show.
*In my best overdone announcers voice* And now it’s time for Season 1’s Where Did it Go Wrooong?: We shouldn’t have seen Tooms attack that last guy by his fireplace. He’s so much more frightening off screen than in cheesy slo-mo.
That involuntary twitch of Scully’s cheek when Mulder launches into his Reticulan lecture is priceless. Pure embarrassment. She can’t take him anywhere.
Can we chock this episode up to another time when Mulder is at least partially incorrect in his assessment? For once, Scully cracks the case and finds the bad guy. Mulder just makes sure he gets locked up.
Something about that image of bile falling on Scully’s childlike hands has always stuck with me.
Her cross appears again. Was the plot point of Scully’s faith planned from the beginning? I assumed they chose to have Tooms rip off the larger, rather atrocious pendant rather than her cross because it was more obvious for the audience.
Colton called another man a loser while he was wearing that polka dot tie. Wonders will never cease.
Speaking of Colton, would that they had brought him back! There’s nothing like a hateful villain
Unlike most Season 1 episodes, Scully’s clothes and hair aren’t comical nearly 20 years later. This may seem trivial, but I suspect it has something to do with why this episode holds up better than quite a few other in Season 1.
Mulder’s humor is also a large part of Squeeze’s continued success. This is his funniest episode to date what with moments like the good-ole-boy handshake he gives Colton. He’s also the subject of bullying which makes him more sympathetic than he’s ever been.
Baby’s first “I Made This.”
Mulder: Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?