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Recap / The X-Files S01 E21 "Tooms"

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Season 1, Episode 21:

"Think of him as an animal. He'll only kill out of necessity or self-defense."
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by David Nutter

"If you release Eugene Tooms, he will kill again. It's in his genetic make-up."
Fox Mulder

Eugene Victor Tooms (the Monster of the Week of the episode "Squeeze") is back. He's about to be released from the psychiatric hospital, and when Mulder and Scully find out, they set out to stop him and expose him before he takes his final victim needed for his re-hibernation. However, they're both under intense scrutiny due to their unorthodox handling of cases, and so Scully wants to make sure that they handle this investigation strictly by the book.


  • Antagonist Title: Since it is a return of an old foe.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Skinner and others in the FBI see Mulder as this, feeling that he's wasting his talents on the X-Files.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: While berating Scully for her and Mulder's conduct on cases, Skinner concedes they have a very high rate of success (either convictions or case solutions), which he stresses is the only reason they haven't been fired.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mulder is right about Tooms. He really is a horrifying Serial Killer with superpowers. Unfortunately, Mulder's testimony sounds crazy and isn't very credible, and so Tooms is released.
  • Character Title
  • Contortionist: Tooms
  • Covered in Gunge: Tooms covered in that yellow bile he produces in the climax carries a major squick factor.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Tooms gets sucked into the elevator. Gross.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mulder after his testimony.
    "You think they would've taken me more seriously if I wore the gray suit?"
  • Death by Irony: One of the injuries Tooms fakes in order to frame Mulder is getting kicked in the face. It isn't the killing blow, but during the final chase, he kicks Tooms in the face for real, which allows him to escape and turn on the escalator.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The scene in the car was really sweet. Most importantly:
    Scully: Mulder, I wouldn't put myself on the line for anybody but you.
  • For the Evulz: Tooms kills for sport, trying to get to his next victim through the toilet. Only when this challenge fails does he try a slightly opened window.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of the episode, Mulder believes a change is coming.
  • Frame-Up/Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Tooms tries to frame Mulder in a beating by cutting himself and using one of Mulder's shoes to hit himself in the jaw.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Eugene Victor Tooms.
  • He's Back!:
    • This is the first time the show has a Monster of the Week returning... and Tooms still needs one more liver to prepare for another 30-year hibernation.
    • This is also the return of The Smoking Man from the pilot episode, who tells Skinner "Of course" he believes Mulder's final report.
  • Honor Before Reason: Mulder's reasoning for telling the court everything about Tooms was that it was the truth.
  • Horror Hunger: Tooms needs one more liver before going into hibernation. He ultimately feasts on Monte during the doctor's visit to the house.
  • Hungry Menace: A few moments highlight how uncomfortable Tooms gets while waiting for another liver, even contemplating acting in broad daylight. He is most irritated when Mulder foils an attempt to surprise a passerby. By the time he's alone with Monte, he can't wait any longer.
  • Idiot Ball: Agent Mulder has been shown that he knows when he sounds crazy to other people, so it was rather dumb, if not irresponsible of him to try and convince the courts that Tooms was a 100 year-old mutant who was genetically predisposed to kill and eat human livers. All it does is convince the courts that Mulder might be mentally unbalanced and had fixated himself onto an innocent man for his conspiracy.
    Mulder: I don't care how it sounded as long as it's the truth.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: This was the first appearance of Walter Skinner. He seems like another generic boss that Scully has to answer to, but he'll go on to be a major character. CSM also appears again (even getting a line)—establishing how he'll be watching over Skinner's shoulder for some time.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While questioning Scully about conduct on cases, Skinner points out she and Mulder regularly don't follow the kind of procedure every other agent is expected to follow. He also takes issue with how they come back with a lot of inconclusive material (e.g. anonymous witnesses and spotty evidence) to go along with reports that otherwise have to be taken at face value.
  • Karmic Death: Tooms gets caught under an escalator and is literally stretched to pieces.
  • Killed Off for Real: Chris Carter and the show writers had to keep telling the fans years later that Tooms wasn't coming back.
  • Last-Name Basis: Scully calls Mulder "Fox" and he confesses that he "even made my parents call me 'Mulder'."
  • Male Gaze: The camera lingers on the bare legs of a potential victim.
  • No Social Skills: Emphasized more in this episode: Tooms can barely string a sentence together and is spoken to by his therapist as if he were a special needs child.
  • Older Than They Look: Tooms
  • Picky People Eater: Tooms only eats his victims' livers.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: Tooms fakes being assaulted by Mulder in order to get him off his case.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: As dangerous as Tooms is, Mulder knows the people in the halfway house are safe from his hunger, due to who the most obvious suspect would be in the event of trouble. Similarly, Tooms could've very well just killed Mulder while he slept, but that could've risked exposure.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Tooms hides in Mulder's trunk in order to follow him home.
  • Sequel Episode: To "Squeeze".
  • Shout-Out: Mulder fell asleep watching The Fly (1958).
  • Smarter Than You Look: Early on, Mulder likens Tooms to an animal that kills only in self-defense or out of hunger. However, Tooms often displays a sadistic streak that demonstrates he knows full well what he's doing and, most importantly, he was competent to frame Mulder.
  • Smug Smiler: Despite his asocial, listless, and almost reptilian mannerisms, even Tooms can't help but smirk in triumph at Mulder and Scully as he leaves the court a free man.
  • The Stakeout: Mulder is on constant detail. Scully joins him for a memorable character scene.
  • That One Case: Tooms' earlier murders for Briggs.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Scully is most displeased by Mulder's testimony, as she knows full well it will allow Tooms to walk free. It also adds to the pressure she's getting from Skinner over Mulder's conduct, making her even more irritated about all this.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Similar to Scorpio in Dirty Harry, Tooms fakes being beaten up by Mulder to antagonize him. The unique part is that because of Tooms's body manipulation skills, he can injure himself quite convincingly, without needing to pay anyone else to do it.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Mulder's case against Tooms at the court was not exactly convincing. He should have stuck to believable parts of the case, such as Tooms' collection of Creepy Souvenirs that had been discovered in his apartment in "Squeeze", though Tooms' lawyer points out that the case is only related to his assault on Agent Scully and not to any serial murders.

"It's amazing how things change, isn't it?"