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Recap / The X-Files S04 E07 "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man"

The Lone Gunmen discover some (possible) information about the early life of Mulder's nemesis.

Tropes

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: As well as master-minding a conspiracy to suppress knowledge about aliens and generally control the United States Government, Cancer Man also set up The Miracle on Ice (by doping the Soviet goalie) and ensures that the Buffalo Bills never win the Super Bowl.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Cigarette Smoking Man and Deep Throat.
  • Benevolent Boss: CSM tries to act like this to his underlings, but doesn't succeed that well.
  • Disappeared Dad: CSM's father was an ardent Communist put to death for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. This happened before he was even born.
  • Executive Meddling: Invoked in the episode when the Smoking Man finds out his short story's ending was changed without his consent. This also applies to the episode itself, as he was originally scripted to kill Frohike.
  • Freudian Excuse: CSM's original strong anti-Communism is implied to stem from hating his father (a devout Communist) for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union and being put to death for it, leaving him before he was born and alone in the world once his mother died as well. His refusal to smoke at first may also be because his mother did, and died from it (when we first view him, in 1962, the link between smoking and cancer had just been established).
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: CSM goes from anonymous Army officer circa 1962 to one of the heads of America's shadow government by 1968, and only gets more powerful afterwards.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, J. Edgar Hoover all appear.
  • Meaningful Name: The magazine CSM's story was published in, "Roman à Clef," sounds like it might be some kind of pretentious porn or something. But it's actually a term for a true story disguised as fiction, which is exactly what his story is.
  • Missing Mom: CSM's mother died of lung cancer when he was a boy, which left him a ward of the state.
  • Pet the Dog: The last couple of scenes show a surprisingly sympathetic side of CSM we've never seen before, an eager amateur writer who gets depressed when the crap magazine that published his story changed the ending. Also serves as a bit of a meta joke, since the ending of the episode that aired was different from the one in the script.
  • Shout-Out: To Forrest Gump. Given the fact that CSM is essentially a dark Forrest, it verges on Take That.
    CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN: Life... is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. You're stuck with this undefinable whipped-mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while, there's a peanut butter cup, or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast, the taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits, filled with hardened jelly and teeth-crunching nuts, and if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you've got left is a... is an empty box... filled with useless, brown paper wrappers.
    • CSM's initial briefing by the military officers is one to Apocalypse Now, with almost identical dialogue to Willard's being assigned to kill Kurtz.
  • Start of Darkness
  • Sympathy for the Devil: CSM is already a major villain, and Frohike's revelations give him a further upgrade on the villainy scale. Nevertheless, he is also portrayed as a lonely, unfulfilled and bitter character, which humanizes him a bit.
  • Take That: "Payback's a bitch Ivan." Cancer Man's involvement in helping the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team win can be taken as either a TT against them, and/or the infamous 1972 basketball finals where the Soviets essentially cheated to win.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Frohike notes that there is no real way to confirm the information he has found. CSM's position on cigarettes and movies changes between scenes too, but this may just be him lying.
  • Who Shot JFK?: CSM. He killed Martin Luther King too.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: CSM starts off as a hardened anti-Communist who gets sucked into the Conspiracy fighting the Cold War. When the Soviet Union falls, he questions what else he could do with his meaningless life, until Deep Throat calls him about a crashed UFO, and he realizes there's another secret war left to fight...
    • Somewhat retconned later, or possibly just an unreliable narrator, as later episodes reveal he was aware of and fighting this war for many decades previously.
  • Worthy Opponent: CSM claims he has respect for Martin Luther King. Which still doesn't stop him from killing the man.
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