“Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.” — Dana Scully
“If there’s an iced tea in that bag, it could be love.” — Fox Mulder
“Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.” — Dana Scully
Our agents revisit the case of liver-eating serial killer Eugene Victor Tooms when he’s released on parole. But in addition to stalking new prey for his next meal, Tooms is also out to get a certain special agent in trouble.
Radhika: “Tooms” serves as a sequel to the show’s very first Monster of the Week, “Squeeze,” and it’s just as rich — if not richer — than its predecessor. We see the return of Eugene Victor Tooms, the mutant serial killer with a taste for human liver, who has a tendency to kill his victims every 30 years. In this episode, Tooms, who was incarcerated for an assault on Scully without being charged for any murders, is released on parole… and of course our agents, especially Mulder, are not happy.
Much of the episode revolves around Mulder keeping an eye on Tooms, foiling the killer’s attempts at finding a victim to complete his quota of livers. But Mulder also gets caught up in Tooms’s web when the killer tries to frame him for attacking him. Mulder’s forbidden from contacting Tooms again, but once he and Scully realize Tooms has killed his psychologist, the agents go after him one last time. In the final confrontation, Tooms eventually meets his demise when he is trapped beneath an escalator.
But the episode is not just about the return of a memorable villain. “Tooms” is where viewers are introduced to Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). And we get to see the Cigarette Smoking Man (henceforth referred to as CSM) in a more extended role. Our first glimpse of Skinner is during a meeting with Scully, where he expresses disapproval of her reports and demands more conventional investigations from her and Mulder. The CSM lurks behind Skinner during the meeting, and by the end of the episode, when Skinner asks if he believes Mulder and Scully’s report on the Tooms case, the CSM simply responds with, “Of course I do.”
In addition, Mulder and Scully are acutely aware that something isn’t quite right — Scully is fairly defiant during her meeting with Skinner. And Mulder appears to be in a state of constant worry throughout the episode, telling Scully that the X-Files are on the verge of ending. He once again reiterates that a change is coming as the episode ends. Between being a sequel to what was previously a standalone episode, and between the constant threat of a conspiracy, this episode is all about continuity, making it more than just a simple Monster of the Week episode. We now have an indication that the show is really about to kick into high gear as its first season ends.
Max: As mentioned above, “Tooms” is an episode revisiting our very first MOTW, and one of three episodes where we revisit a past MOTW. Here, we find Tooms being released to the care and supervision of his psychologist played by Paul Ben-Victor. Getting a job as an animal control officer, Eugene bides his time for when he can strike again to collect his precious livers.
The episode is essentially a game of cat-and-mouse, with Mulder just waiting to nab Tooms in the act. Of course, being restrained from pursuing a suspect or a case never stopped Mulder before, and it sure doesn’t in this episode.
As Radhika said, this episode is not just a encore showcase for one of the shows most indelible adversaries, but an introduction to the character of AD Walter Skinner and the increasing oversight of unseen forces (in the guise of the CSM) into the work our agents do in terms of X-Files. His blunt matter-of-factness would appear to be antagonistic to Mulder and Scully, but as we will learn and see, Skinner will become one of our heroes’ closest allies, earning trust through action, and knowing when to draw the line.
We are in the home stretch of the first season, and the puzzle pieces are beginning to assemble in terms of the forces Mulder and Scully will have to contend with in order to investigate their cases and keep their jobs. From OPR hearings to military/MIB intervention to not-so-veiled threats, the work done from within and without that basement office is a clear threat to the powers-that-be. When the CSM utters his first line in the series, his tacit seriousness in the validity of the Tooms investigation underscores the grave danger the agents would face if they followed a line of inquiry that would do harm to the delicate status quo around the Bureau.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
Paul Ben-Victor – Paul Ben-Victor (Dr. Aaron Monte) is a consummate character actor, bringing to life some of the most indelible characters on television. Most famous for his role of Spiros Vondopoulos on The Wire, he can also been seen it the programs In Plain Sight, John From Cincinnati, Entourage, and NYPD Blue. On the big screen, he’s been in such films as Tombstone, Heist, and recent release Don Jon.