“Oh my God, Mulder. I think it’s… it smells like bile.” – Dana Scully
“Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?”
– Fox Mulder
It’s not all about “little green men” when Mulder and Scully encounter a mutant serial killer who enjoys the taste of human liver. It’s a race against the clock for the agents to stop the killer, whose crimes also seem to match unsolved cases from 1933 and 1963.
Radhika: “Squeeze” is considered a classic from The X-Files’ early years, and I’m happy to say the assessment holds up while rewatching it nearly 20 years after it first aired. The episode is important for introducing us to the Monster of the Week (MOTW) format, as well as establishing Mulder and Scully as a real team.
The episode’s teaser is quintessential X-Files with shots interspersing aspects of everyday life — a businessman about to settle in for a long night at the office — with suspicious camera angles and a skin-prickling score from Mark Snow. We don’t see much of who’s committing the crime, but we can see that office vents are opening and closing, with fingers slipping through the cracks. When the victim meets his grisly end, it’s not even as grotesque as some of the visuals in later episodes of the series. We see blood dripping, followed by the distorted image of the victim’s body reflected in an object on his desk.
We later discover the culprit is Eugene Victor Tooms, a Baltimore animal control employee and mutant serial killer, who goes into hibernation for about 30 years at a time, before emerging to consume five human livers. Tooms, brilliantly portrayed by Doug Hutchison (who is perhaps now best known for marrying Courtney Stodden when she was
16), isn’t an alien or part of a government conspiracy. Despite his predilection for human livers and the ability to contort through extremely tiny spaces, he looks like a pretty average person on the street. And thus, the show introduces the idea that there may be monsters among us, hiding in plain sight, as Scully notes.
But it’s not just the establishment of the MOTW that’s noteworthy here. This is the episode where Scully publicly sides with Mulder, despite his “spooky” reputation amongst their peers at the bureau. Introduced to the case by an ambitious colleague, Agent Tom Colton, Scully tries her best to maintain her previous associations, while also playing the role of Mulder’s partner — “Mrs. Spooky,” as Colton derisively puts it. It’s all a bit high school, but Scully eventually chooses sides after Colton finally pushes her over the edge, telling the agent that she can’t wait to see him fall off the ladder he’s so desperately trying to climb.
As Mulder observes, “In our investigations, you may not always agree with me, but at least you respect the journey.” The rapport between Mulder and Scully was already fairly remarkable in the pilot and “Deep Throat,” but this is where we really get to see Scully the Skeptic accept her new, unorthodox partner.
Max: Radhika, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessments on the episode. For me, this is the make-it-or-break-it episode. Given that it is the first MOTW, “Squeeze” would have to prove that the premise of the show can work without any hint of aliens or UFOs. In this respect, it acquits itself above and beyond the call of duty. When people talk about classic episodes of the series, it is of no surprise that “Squeeze” is so frequently mentioned and highly regarded.
I wanted to elaborate on the statement you made about Scully accepting her new partner. To me, the scene that best underscores this is when she is giving her profile of the killer to Colton and his colleagues. You can see how indignant she is as being marginalized by her peers for doing her job. It also bears mentioning that there is also a distinct sense of sexist subtext in this episode. To Bureau boys on the fast track like Colton, Scully is more of a glorified assistant, good for only riding the coattails of those getting bumped up the ladder. Her response to this is typical Scully, doubling down on hard work and proving that she is where she is because she is damn good at her job. After all, it is her rigor that would keep Mulder honest as an investigator when he could go down rabbit holes just as easily.
Frequently, MOTWs would live and die off the strength of the adversary and the actor playing them. Doug Hutchison plays Tooms with such a lithe, silky sinisterness. It’s really quite something to see him turn on a dime, his demeanor going from meek to malevolent in a flash.
On a more esoteric note, I liked how this episode worked as almost an evolution of investigative methods, given how Tooms’ crime spree has spanned at least over a century, going all the way back to before fingerprints were a useful scientific tool. There are shades of this in the season five episode “Travelers,” where Arthur Dales is told that it will take several weeks to get back bloodwork and toxicology analysis. Humorous given our contemporary vantage, but roadblocks back then to figuring out whodunnit.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
A recurring section of our rewatch where we note actors who’ve appeared in the episode(s) and have gone on to become stars in their own right.
Doug Hutchison – As noted above, Doug Hutchison plays Eugene Victor Tooms, the killer in this episode and in its later sequel, simply titled, “Tooms.” At the age of 51, Hutchison gained additional fame when he married 16-year-old Courtney Stodden. The pair has been seen on the VH1 reality series, Couple’s Therapy. But prior to his controversial marriage, Hutchinson had a chance to play a few other memorable character roles, including that of a sadistic corrections officer in The Green Mile.
Donal Logue – Donal Logue, who is perhaps best known for his role in the sitcom Grounded for Life, played the role of Agent Tom Colton. Logue has also been on a variety of series including Life, Sons of Anarchy and Copper.