Skinner appears! CSM speaks!! I could end my review right there and at least half of my invisible audience would be OK with it. Thankfully, this episode has more to recommend itself than even those two glorious points. Only three X-Files MOTW villains were notorious enough to warrant follow-up episodes. “Squeeze” (1×2) gave birth to “Tooms”, “Pusher” (3×17) to “Kitsunegari” (5×8) and “Irresistable” (2×13) to “Orison” (7×7). Out of all three pairings, only “Tooms” was a true success.
What makes a killer? Is it all in one’s genetic makeup as Mulder says at Tooms’ hearing? Doubtful, as Tooms frames Mulder with such sinister relish that one can hardly believe his motive was purely survival and not revenge. The theme of evil as an inexplicable force all its own travels well from “Squeeze” to “Tooms”. In “Squeeze”, it’s intimated that Tooms’ warped DNA is born of human evil. Now, we see the evidence of it. And yet, mercifully, this episode doesn’t focus on the how or why of Eugene Victor Tooms. Where he came from isn’t so important. He’s here and he’s the personification of evil. No weighty, post-modern psychosocial exposition necessary. Bah. That old war-horse of a Detective doesn’t need no stinkin’ machine to help him find those bones. Tooms’ lingering malevolence is so powerful it seeps up through the concrete. Now, that’s some kind of evil.
But let’s get to the crux of the matter, shall we?
Scully is challenged at the beginning of this episode for not doing what she was assigned to do. Rather than reign Mulder in, she’s becoming more open-minded herself. Finally, Scully is forced to confront her own evolution. Just how far over the edge she’s willing to go with Mulder? How unorthodox will she get? It’s gotten to the point where she’s not just risking her reputation the way she did in Squeeze, she’s risking her career. In fact, she’s risking the career that she chose even over pleasing her family. Earlier, I said of “Squeeze”, “Let’s call this moment Part 1 of a life-altering choice. Part 2 isn’t until ‘Tooms’ (1×21), when Scully blows up any semblance of a balanced attachment to Mulder the way a 6th grader would a science project.” Well, this is what I was talking about. Scully isn’t just defending Mulder against schoolyard bullies anymore. That, anyone with a conscience might do. No, now she’s telling bald-faced lies to her superiors without so much as a blush or an eye twitch.
How did she reach that point? Well, this is just one of my favorite things to talk about. Fundamentally, it all boils down to Iced Tea.
Let me back up here and tell you a little about my rewatch. Somewhere around the middle of the stakeout scene, I couldn’t make it through for some odd mixture of joy and pain. I had to pause, flail about on my bed and cry, “My show! My show! My show!!” Then I went to the bathroom, came back and started the scene from the beginning… couldn’t make it through, stop, rinse, repeat. It took me 5 tries to make it to the end. And lest you think I suffer from IBS, maybe I should mention that this is my favorite moment in the entire series.
Why, you ask, do I go gaga over this scene when there are so many amazing moments in the 90% of the series left to come? I can only attempt to explain.
Let’s break down the sequence in rambling, dulcet tones: At first, we think Scully’s about to hammer Mulder for not following the rules. Then we realize that she’s actually looking out for him and not in the least trying to please her bosses. You can see on her face that she’s weighing what Mulder’s saying about keeping her nose clean. She’s considering the potential repercussions to her career. Yet, Scully is not dissuaded when he discourages her from calling him “Fox.” She doesn’t skip a beat with her declaration. She doesn’t look shyly down or break eye contact. She’s bold. Mulder is shocked, gratified and uncomfortable. I squeal and cackle with unbounded delight. Mulder’s afraid. There’s root beer in the bag. All’s right with the world.
As long-winded as I’ve already been, this is where I feel I should probably write a disclaimer. Now, please understand that I’m an M/S shipper to my last atom, but I probably don’t have a typically mainstream reading of this scene. I don’t think either Mulder or Scully had any romantic interest in each other (OK, maybe a very, very latent interest). Mulder’s not serious when he mentions “love,” he just couldn’t think of a better way to express his gratitude and affection than to make a joke of it. He’s juvenile like that. Scully’s not disappointed, she’s punking Mulder. The moment is priceless anyway.
Mulder is selflessly looking out for Scully, Scully is selflessly looking out for Mulder. Dramedy. Banter extraordinaire. And how can you not love deadpan Scully?? Ah, friends, this dynamic is why, after all this time, I’m still in love with Mulder & Scully.
This is the 4th moment up for contention in a series of moments up for the title of being the moment. You know, the one where Mulder & Scully become a full-fledged team. My opinion? Even if it isn’t the winner, it’s the fairest of them all.
And the Verdict is…
If I could have one wish for the New Year… I’d want XF3. But if I could get a second wish, I’d want a recreation of this scene in XF3, still sans iced tea. It would be only too great to see these two, twenty years later, still putting it all on the line for each other, supporting each other, and flirting with each other.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” That pretty much sums up how Scully feels about Mulder and the X-Files right now; both are an adventure not to be missed. I wholeheartedly agree.
I’ve read where Chris Carter originally planned for The X-Files to be a story driven show. Episodes like this are why it so quickly became about the characters.
Tooms knew that his bite mark could be used to identify him way back in the 1930’s. That’s one smart mutant. Still, even if you hide the body, why waste the liver??
How did Mulder miss the weight of a full-sized man entering his trunk?
How did Tooms figure out which apartment was Mulder’s? He wouldn’t have been able to follow him into the building directly. Did he check every air vent until he found him?
How exactly did Scully know the area that corresponded to Tooms’ original nest inside the mall?
If Tooms wasn’t gross enough, now he doesn’t just crawl through ventilation ducts and sleep in bile, he worms his way through sewage as well. But he couldn’t quite squeeze through the toilet so he gives up and goes through the window?? He can’t break the lid-lock? Amateur.
The light works in the hallway but not in Toom’s room? Sounds like an excuse for Mulder and Scully to break out their flashlights.
And now we know that Mulder isn’t claustrophobic. We don’t see him crawl that fast again until he’s being chased by a razor-clawed alien in FTF.
The eyes have it in this episode. There are more close-up shots of people’s eyes than I care to keep track of.
Blevins magically disappears.
CSM finally becomes a real player. Not because his single line steals the show, but because Skinner’s deference to him is disturbing.
Mulder: You think they would have taken me more seriously if I wore the gray suit?
Mulder: They’re out to put an end to the X-Files Scully. I don’t know why but any excuse will do. I don’t really care about my record but you’d be in trouble just sitting in this car. And I’d hate to see you carry an official reprimand in your career file because of me.
Mulder: [laughs] I… I even made my parents call me Mulder… Mulder.
Scully: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.
Mulder: [stares] If there’s an iced tea in that bag… could be love.
Scully: Must be fate Mulder… Rootbeer.
Scully: There’s only room for one.
Mulder: You can get the next mutant.