The X-Files: Squeeze

Case: A series of murders in which the victims’ livers are ripped out, and in which there is no discernable point of entry.

Destination: Baltimore, Maryland

‘Squeeze’ is our very first “freak of the week” episode, introducing one of the series’ most memorable monsters, Eugene Victor Tooms. (To this day, I can’t see actor Doug Hutchison without mentally squealing “Tooms!”) Tooms is a genetic mutant who comes out of hibernation every 30 years to consume five human livers, tearing them out of his victims with his bare hands. As though that isn’t disturbing enough, he possesses the ability to stretch and contort his body so that he can squeeze into nearly any size opening, breaking into homes and offices through chimneys and ductwork.

For me, this episode is the first in which the case at hand is actually more compelling than all the elements surrounding it. Tooms is completely shuddery, with his yellow eyes and his long, hungry stare at his victims. His quiet, detached demeanor through most of the episode is intensely unsettling, particularly in that last scene when he allows himself a small smile as he ponders the small slot in his cell door with a last longing look. It’s enough to keep you awake at night. Or at least make you want to block all your vents.

This episode is also notable for the way it advances Mulder and Scully’s relationship, cementing their partnership and showing how their work and the constant hostility and derision they face has brought them closer together. It was quite frustrating to see the other agents constantly dissing Mulder and his work, but that just made it more satisfying to see Scully consciously choose to align herself with him. When the episode starts, she seems extremely uncomfortable and depressed by her role as ‘Mrs. Spooky,’ clearly feeling it is hurting her credibility in the Bureau. Through the course of the episode, however, we see her slowly realizing that the work is more important to her than career advancement.

Colton: “Who’s side are you on?”
Scully: “The victim’s.”

For all his foibles and bizarre theories, she knows that Mulder wants to solve their cases. They both “respect the journey.” It was particularly sweet to see her put Agent Colton in his place after he called off their stakeout. “Is this what it takes to climb the ladder, Colton? […] Then I can’t wait ‘til you fall off and land on your ass.” By the end of the episode, Scully is “all in” when it comes to the X-Files, and it is a pleasure to see her and Mulder working, literally, side-by-side to find the truth.

Other Thoughts

Frank, the cop from the Powhatten Mill murders, has always really stuck with me. The actor played his scenes very well, and they really added an emotional weight to what was otherwise just a freaky series of murders. “It’s like all the horrible acts that humans are capable of, somehow, gave birth to some kind of human … monster.” I loved the short scene at the end with him reacting to the news that Tooms had been arrested. The way he just closed his eyes in “release” was very affecting.

This is our first case in which Scully becomes the target of the perpetrator. I don’t really want to see her being victimized, but it made for some great tension and action at the end of the episode. Plus, she got to be more than just the damsel in distress, forcefully defending herself and aiding in her own rescue.

Tooms’ nest of newspaper and bile was absolutely revolting.

Quotes

Mulder was highly quotable in this episode.

Mulder: “Reputation? I have a reputation?”

Mulder to Scully: “Do you think I’m Spooky?” This one’s all in the delivery.

Mulder to Colton: “Grey. You said green men. The Reticulan skin tone is actually grey. They’re notorious for their extraction of terrestrial human livers, due to iron-depletion in the Reticulan galaxy. […] Do you have any idea what liver and onions goes for on Reticula?”

Mulder: “And maybe I run into so many people who are hostile, just because they can’t open their minds to extreme possibilities, that sometimes the need to mess with their heads outweighs the millstone of humiliation.”

Mulder: “So what’s this? The anti-Waltons?” (In response to Scully’s theory that the killers abhorrent behavior has been passed down from generation to generation.)

Scully: “Oh my God, Mulder. It smells like ... I think it’s bile.”
Mulder: “Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?”

Final Analysis: ‘Squeeze’ is a great change of pace for The X-Files, showing us that the series could be so much more than just alien abductions and government conspiracies. This is the show at its creepy best, and the episode remains one of my absolute favorites.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

7 comments:

Mark Greig said...

This is the story that first got me into the X-Files. It is possibly the most unsettling piece of television of the ‘90s. The show had many great monsters but Eugene Victor Tooms (“Three names. Always ominous”) remains the best monster by far. Doug Hutchison still creeps me out to this day, even now as a hippy on Lost.

Remco said...

OMG, Horace Goodspeed is Tooms???? I *so* didn't recognize him! :D

Yeah, this is one of the best episodes of the first season. The X-Files actually started pretty strong, now that I think of it. I always remembered the first season as a somewhat failed season, but it's really got a lot of great stuff right out of the gate.

jo said...

I am and always have been a complete wuss and I distinctly remember being terrified by this episode. I may even have hidden behind my dad during most of Tooms scenes (oh to be a kid again). I guess the fact that I remember it so well after so many years proves how good/creepy the X Files could be.

P.s. I didn't realise Horace Goodspeed was Tooms either. Nice to know that the actor didn't get type cast.

ChrisB said...

Scary! This episode makes me shiver.

I had forgotten how good the first few episodes are. A sign of how good the series became that I tend to look at the first season as a bit of a yawn.

garyb said...

Agent Tom Colton was portrayed by Donal Logue who is currently (2015) Detective Harvey Bollock in Gotham.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, garyb! I knew I knew him but couldn't place him.

This is a super creepy episode, even by today's standards. I particularly liked Tooms going into the chimney and that final scene in Scully's apartment. And bile. Bleah.

Looking at the list of episodes I want to rewatch, I've noticed that they lean more toward shipping episodes than mythology and creepy episodes. One thing I really liked about this one was the offhand (pun intended) but sensual way Scully caressed Mulder's upper arm. So nicely done.

Lynda said...

This is the first episode I remember vividly, creepy but solidified Mulder and Scully"s working relationship. Classic X-Files monster of the week, but also a nice change of pace to leave the larger conspiracies for a while.