The X-Files: Tooms

Case: The return of Eugene Victor Tooms, who is up for release from the sanitarium.

Destination: Baltimore, Maryland

‘Tooms’ brings us back to the early days of The X-Files by resuming the story of Eugene Victor Tooms, genetic mutant extraordinaire. When Tooms is deemed capable of rejoining society by the court, Mulder embarks on a one-man surveillance mission to ensure that the quietly creepy killer does not claim the last of his five livers before going back into hibernation. Meanwhile, Scully struggles to balance her boss’s insistence that the X-Files investigations proceed “by the book” with her desire to help her partner catch an unconventional murderer.

This episode is a fantastic last hurrah for one of the series’ best villains ever. What a thrill to see that name again as the camera panned over the sanitarium door! Chills started running up my spine at the sight of those creepy yellow eyes, and I was excitedly unnerved at seeing that outstretched hand reaching for the outer door knob. What a treat to get one more hour with Doug Hutchison’s disturbingly calm predator! I’m almost sad that Tooms came to a grisly (and quite memorable) end at the mall. I’ll miss his quiet little smiles, which were as maddening as they were unsettling, and his transfixed, longing stares at his prey. I guess you can only go to that well so many times, but Round Two with Tooms was, once again, The X-Files at its creepy best.

Although the engaging game of cat-and-mouse between Tooms and Mulder may have been enough to carry this episode on its own, ‘Tooms’ also has a pretty strong B-plot which gets back to the series’ roots by bringing back the ominous Smoking Man and his efforts to shut Mulder and the X-Files down via Scully. His newest puppet arrives in the form of Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner. “Agent Scully, we have reviewed your reports, and frankly, we are quite displeased. Irregular procedure. Untenable evidence. Anonymous witnesses, inconclusive findings, aggravated by vague opinion.” I actually had to double check that this was Skinner’s very first appearance, because I’ve become so accustomed to his presence over the years. I liked that, even though he initially seems like the latest in a string of talking heads insisting that Scully keep Mulder in line, he repeatedly shows a certain level of discomfort with the role and with the Smoking Man’s hovering presence. Plus, at the end he demonstrates a small spark of independence by seeming to question the Smoking Man’s purpose. At the very least, he’s questioning whether there might actually be something to Mulder’s crazy theories. There may be hope for him yet.

I also loved how this reminder of where we started emphasized how far Scully’s and Mulder’s relationship has come, not just for them, but for us. Back in ‘Squeeze’ Scully was clearly struggling with her loyalties, and we didn’t know which way she’d turn. But in this episode, even though she was getting serious renewed pressure from the bosses, there was never a doubt in my mind that she would bend the rules to help Mulder. She really went the extra mile, too: taking over his unauthorized surveillance; pursuing “off the record” means of investigation with the forensics doctor; and flat out lying to Skinner to provide Mulder with an alibi. I was initially a bit surprised by that last one, but she did say she was willing to put herself on the line for him in their wonderful stakeout scene.

Scully: “Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anyone but you.”
Mulder: “If there’s an ice tea in that bag, could be love.”
Scully: “Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.”

Other Thoughts

This week’s “I knew you when” guest actor: Paul Ben Victor as Dr. Aaron Monte. How exciting to see Vondas from The Wire in ‘Baltimore’ again! I know this actor has appeared in countless other things, but he’s now firmly implanted in my brain as Vondas.

Gillian Anderson is really starting to look pregnant now. They are trying to hide it with giant, unflattering suits, but you can see it in her face.

As excited as I was to see Tooms again, I was fairly stunned to learn that he was even being considered for release. He killed at least four people, right? Why would he be eligible for parole mere months later? I guess I had forgotten that he was remanded to the psych ward for his assault on Agent Scully and not for murder.

Mulder is a terrible expert witness. If he really wanted Tooms to stay locked up, he should have toned down his presentation style and dialed back on the crazy theories. It is too much to expect the parole board to swallow his genetic mutation and hibernation theory, especially when he sounds completely manic describing it. He tells Scully he doesn’t care how it sounded, but come on! What’s more important: his obsessive drive for the Truth or keeping a killer behind locked doors?

Tooms licking his gloves after picking up the dead rat was just repulsive.

I really liked that they brought back Frank, the detective from the Powhatten Mill murders. His emotional connection to the case made quite the impression in ‘Squeeze,’ so it was nice to see him getting a chance to try to put the killer that haunts him back behind bars.

The toilet? Seriously? Can Tooms really squeeze himself into something as small as plumbing pipes? I’m having trouble suspending disbelief on that one.

I was surprised it took seeing the sandwich for Scully to think of using the dental records. I thought of it as soon as the pathologist mentioned the gnawing on the ribs. Of course, forensic procedurals weren’t all the rage back when this episode was made. It probably seemed like a clever intuitive leap the first time I saw it. An early House moment, instead of “Duh!” moment.

I loved that Mulder was “watching” the original version of The Fly! A campy classic.

Quotes

Skinner: “In short, Agent Scully, it is your responsibility to see that these cases are by the book.”

Mulder: “If you release Eugene Tooms, he will kill again. It’s in his genetic makeup.”

Mulder: “Think they would have taken me more seriously if I wore the grey suit?”
Scully: “Mulder, your testimony, you sounded so …”
Mulder: “I don’t care how it sounded, as long as it was the truth.”

Scully: “Mulder, that’s going to entail unorthodox methods of investigation.”
Mulder: “Look, Scully, if you’re resistant because you don’t believe, I’ll accept that. But if you’re resistant because of some bureaucratic pressure, they’ve not only reeled you in, they’ve already skinned you.”

Mr. Green: “I hope you’ll be comfortable, Eugene. The room in the back is small. But I’m sure you’ll be able to squeeze in.”
Tooms: “I’m sure.”

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.”
Scully: “Fox …”
Mulder: [Laughs.] “I even made my parents call me ‘Mulder.’”

Scully: “Agent Mulder could not have done it, because he was with me.”
Skinner: “Agent Scully, you wouldn’t be lying to me, would you?”
Scully: “Sir, I would expect you to place the same trust in me, as I do in you.”

Skinner: “You read this report? ... Do you believe them?”
Smoking Man: “Of course I do.”
The Smoking Man’s first words?

Final Analysis: Another Season 1 favorite that takes us back to the beginning, by revisiting our very first freak-of-the-week and by bringing back the Smoking Man and the government conspiracy to shut down Mulder’s passion project. Plus, we get to meet A.D. Skinner for the first time!

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

2 comments:

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

Nice review, Jess. This was my favourite episode of season one. I've always considered X-Files more of a horror-fantasy anthology than a sci-fi serial, and I was so pleased the producers allowed Glenn Morgan and James Wong (two of my three favourite X-Files writers) to pop out a sequel to their earlier episode Squeeze. It's as if they were writing their own little series within Chris Carter's.

And isn't Doug Hutchison wonderfully creepy?

ChrisB said...

Yeah, Skinner! I liked him from the start, and this was it.

Tooms is one of the best villains ever. Too bad they had to kill him, but another show may have been pushing the bounds of credibility beyond the breaking point.