Reopening The X-Files

Reopening The X-Files: “Tooms”

Season 1, Episode 21: “Tooms”
Original Airdate: April 22, 1994

So I’ll be honest with you guys, for a minute or two there I was not even going to bother with “Tooms,” even though to not bother with “Tooms” after having very much bothered with “Squeeze” would have left a mutant-sized loop unclosed. The thing is, although “Tooms” heralds the return of a really super great monster of the week, Tooms, “Tooms” is not a great monster-of-the-week. It’s okay. It certainly ends in spectacular fashion. But rewatching “Tooms” I found I was always looking away from Tooms and looking, instead, at Mulder and Scully, and the wonderful relationship that has grown up between them, and you know, that’s not so bad, is it? Yeah, okay. You’re right. Let’s bother with Tooms.

We open in a sanitarium, and you know it’s a sanitarium because all of the prisoners are screaming and laughing because that is what crazy people do. Eugene Victor Tooms is approached by a guy who is so clearly going to die that you kind of just want to kill him yourself. Oh and he’s a psychiatrist. Tooms’ psychiatrist. It turns out that still nobody thinks Tooms is crazy, despite the bit where he broke into Scully’s apartment and attacked her etc, so, they are going to maybe let him return to society. But only after the hearing. Good thing Mulder is at the hearing, though! Because he has all of the evidence about how Tooms is crazy, except oops, we forgot that when Mulder talks about how Tooms is crazy, Mulder himself actually sounds crazy. And he doesn’t help himself, of course, what do you expect, he’s all “genetic mutation” “five occurring every thirty years since 1903” and “HE WILL KILL AGAIN.” No one at the hearing is interested in that, at all, and so they release Tooms.

Scully’s brand of Scully-sanity might have been some help, but Scully has problems of her own. She’s been called into a fancy reprimanding at the hands of Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who we have never met before and who, I just have this feeling, we will come to love. Skinner is flanked by the Cigarette Smoking Man, who smokes, and Skinner has lots to say to Scully about how her case reports lack a little ummmm “conventional investigation.” Scully points out that she and Mulder have a a case solution rate of 75%, which seems pretty sweet to me, but Skinner is nonplussed. God he’s cute when he’s nonplussed. Scully meets up with Mulder and slyly tells him that Skinner met with her in order to reel her in. It’s fairly adorable that she tells him, and so honestly, especially when one recalls the Scully of early season one, the Scully who would take those administrative whuppings and then spend the rest of the episode trying to argue with Mulder without really explaining why. This Scully not only has experience with the X-Files, she has confidence in what she and her partner are doing. Enough to make a joke. Enough not to hide the truth from Mulder.

Mulder decides that the best way to cope with Tooms’ release is to follow Tooms around, presumably forever. Turns out this is not such a bad idea, as it takes about thirty seconds back on the dog-catching beat for Tooms to get all yellow-eyed. Mulder intervenes, requesting Tooms’ help with a missing Norwegian Elkhound named Heinrich (specialty: moose-hunting). Thus diverted from his path, Tooms identifies another victim, tracks him home, and tries to get to him via his toilet. Again, Mulder intervenes, leaving poor Tooms super hungry and super, super pissy. Meanwhile, Scully checks in with ol’ maudlin-wheels, Detective Frank Briggs (Ret.), who remembers all of a sudden that one of the 1963-era victims was never found. He, Scully, and a concrete resonation machine (before you ask, no, it’s not a sonic screwdriver) go to some chemical plant somewhere and at that point Det. Frank Briggs gets mildly psychic and points to a place in the ground and boom, body. What up now. Scully and another dude examine the body, which, among other things, has “gnawing marks” near the ribs. What up now.

Scully meets Mulder in his new office, which is his car, a great place to surveil mutants and a terrible place to live. She brings him a sandwich, liverwurst, and the two proceed to have a conversation that I like so much, so terribly, terribly much. Scully notes that surveillance requires two pairs of agents, in rotation. Mulder avoids. Scully says that it’s not about doing it by the book, it’s about Mulder sleeping every so often. Mulder snips. Scully offers to stay in his place. Mulder sighs. “They’re out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don’t know why,” he says. “But any excuse will do.” Scully calls Mulder “Fox.” Mulder laughs at Scully. Scully, undeterred: “I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.” We’ve heard her say something like this before, in “E.B.E.,” while she was trying to convince Mulder that Deep Throat might not be the most trustworthy mysterious informant around. But there’s a new poignancy here, in the smelly car, with the liverwurst. It’s not now that Scully needs to say it in order to make herself believe it. It’s not now that Scully needs to say it in order to sway Mulder to do the thing she wants. It’s now that Scully says it because Mulder isn’t hearing it, and hasn’t heard it, and we know that because here he is on a stakeout, by himself, even though she is right there.

And he undercuts it, (“If there’s an iced tea in that bag, it could be love”) and she plays along (“Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.”), but then, he listens, and leaves Scully in the car, with the sandwich (one bite gone—hey, Scully, remember those gnawing marks?). It’s very good. Things are really coming together. Except that Tooms is hiding in the trunk of Mulder’s car, and the second Mulder is asleep at home, Tooms slithers in, beats himself bloody, and plants Mulder’s shoeprint on his face. It’s a framing successful enough to get both agents dragged back into Skinner’s office. Scully lies to Skinner, providing Mulder with an alibi, and when Skinner questions her story, Scully retorts, “I would expect you to place the same trust in me as I do in you.” If you had any questions left about Scully’s loyalty, about whether that loyalty is more of the self-serving sort or of the actual true sort, do not have them any more. For Scully, trusting Mulder means more than just, you know, trusting Mulder. It also means that her partner’s enemy is her enemy. It also means that Skinner doesn’t have a chance. The AD tries a new tact, calling Mulder “Fox” (COME ON, GUYS, THAT NEVER WORKS) and suggesting that he take a vacation. He also forbids him from hanging out with Tooms. He does not, however, forbid him with hanging out with Tooms’ dental records, which is what Mulder and Scully do next, matching Tooms’ teeth to the bites on the newly unearthed body.

Then Tooms kills his psychiatrist. Obviously.

The agents head to Tooms’ old pad at 66 Exter Street, except I guess the city of Baltimore is really committed to building malls as fast as possible, because 66 Exter Street is now a fairly complete-looking mall. They track Tooms to a utility shaft underneath an escalator. Mulder goes after Tooms, which is fairly stupid. Tooms agrees. Bile-covered and nearly-nested, Tooms attacks Mulder, who scrambles out of the utility shaft all just-at-the-last-second and hits-exactly-the-right-button, crushing Tooms to death underneath the escalator. Wait, what? No, yes, I got that right. He crushes Tooms to death underneath an escalator. Happy shopping!

“Tooms” closes with a melancholy scene perhaps penned by Detective Frank Briggs: Mulder gazes at a cocoon and says something moony to Scully about how change is coming. Scully asks why and Mulder says it’s the twenty-first episode of a twenty-four episode season, what do you expect, and can I just say, before we go. I know I was a little rough on the Tooms part of “Tooms” but there is something important about Tooms, and why Tooms is a good villain to bring back. More than just a fun new way to think about bile, Tooms is a single-minded individual, a focused individual, an individual whose survival is inexorably linked to forcing people to give up something that they really, really do not want to give up. And I am not saying that Mulder is in any way like a mutant. I am not saying that the truth is in any way like a liver. And I am definitely not saying that Scully is like a nest built out of paper. But change is coming. So beware of escalators.


Next week: “The Erlenmeyer Flask”

Want to watch along? The entire series is currently streaming on Netflix as well as Hulu.

Meghan Deans even made her parents call her Meghan Deans. She is @meghandrrns and has a Tumblr.


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