Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, directed by Harry Longstreet
Season 1, Episode 3
Yellow eyes peer out from a sewer drain, watching a business man walk unaware to his car. When the business man arrives at his office … something follows.
The wires in the elevator twitch, as if being climbed. The screws on a tiny vent turn, letting something inside.
The man enters his office and closes the door behind him. Watching from the outside, we see him thrown against the closed curtains — a struggle so violent, it cracks the wood of the office door.
Blood drips onto the generic carpet, splatters every surface inside. The screws of the vent slowly spin themselves closed.
* * *
Dana Scully sits at lunch with an old friend from the academy, Agent Tom Colton. Together, they chat about how another agent has made it higher up the ladder than them, and Colton expresses his frustration at his own lack of upward mobility.
Asking about how Scully is doing, Colton teasingly asks if “any close encounters of the third kind,” considering her work with Spooky Mulder. She comes to Mulder’s defense, saying that even though his theories are “out there,” he’s a great agent.
Colton changes the subject by pointing out that he has his own case that’s out there — serial murders, in which the victims’ livers are ripped out and there’s no clear point of entry. He asks for his help on the case and reluctantly agrees to let Mulder come along when Scully agrees.
At the crime scene, Mulder and Scully chat about why Mulder wasn’t asked to help. Mostly, because his reputation proceeds him.
Scully: Mulder, look, Colton plays by the rules and you don’t. They feel your methods, your theories are…
Mulder: Spooky? … Do you think I’m spooky?
Colton arrives and instantly asks if Mulder thinks the killer is little green men. Mulder replies that it’s actually little grey men from Reticulum, who need livers for their iron content — so deadpan that Colton can’t tell if he’s joking or not.
Mulder walks away to further investigate the crime scene and notices tiny metal shavings on the ground. This draws his attention to the air vent (clearly too small for a human to get through), which he dusts for prints, finding a strange elongated fingerprint.
Back at their office, Mulder points out that the weird fingerprint actually are an exact match for the fingerprints from an old X-file — representing ten more victims, all of whom also had their livers removed.
Scully wonders why Colton didn’t mention the other murders. The answer: because the murders occurred in the 1960s and 1930s, so he likely didn’t know about them. Mulder believes they have a 100-year-old serial killer on their hands.
Although he wants to investigate the murders as an X-file, Scully says that Colton and the other agents don’t want Mulder’s input or theories. But since it was an X-file long before it was ever Colton’s case, he suggests they should do a separate investigation.
Later, Scully writes a profile of the killer (leaving out Mulder’s theories) and presents it to Colton’s team, suggesting that they target past murder sites in case the killer returns. They’re impressed with her work and invite her to participate in the stake out.
Scully waits at her stake out point, sitting in a vehicle in a darkened parking garage — when she hears a strange noise. She jumps out of the car, gun drawn, proceeds to investigate, and finds…
Mulder, offering her sunflower seeds.
He says they’re wasting their time, that the killer lives for the thrill of the impossible entry. The thrill is gone.
Scully sends him away annoyed — but as he’s leaving, he noticed something big enough to be a person moving in the vents. Mulder runs back to get Scully and have her call for back up.
She draws her gun and orders the person to exit the vent. A young man crawls out, covered in dirt and his hands raised: Eugene Victor Tooms (played wonderfully by Doug Hutchison).
Tooms is icy and emotionless as he sits for a polygraph test in an interrogation room. He responds to all the questions without wavering — except for the two questions Mulder slipped in, whether Tooms is over 100 years old and whether he visited Powhaten Mill in 1933.
The results of the lie detector test convince Colton and the other agent that Tooms is innocent. However, Scully questions why he was at the office building crawling through the ducts late at night and Mulder points out how he lied in response to two of the questions.
A riduclous theory, which angers the agents. Colton offers to help get Scully out of the X-files, but Scully points out that she can take care of herself.
Walking out of the office, Scully asks why Mulder pushed his theories even though he knew they wouldn’t believe him.
Mulder: Maybe I run into so many people who are hostile, just because they can’t open their minds to the possibilities, that sometimes the need to mess with their heads outweighs the millstone of humiliation.
Scully: It seems like you were acting very territorial. I don’t know. Forget it.
Mulder: Of course I was. In our investigations, you may not always agree with me, but at least you expect the journey.
He offers her an out, letting her know that, if she wants to keep working with Colton, then he won’t hold it against her.
She smiles and follows him up the stairs. After all, he has to have more evidence than his zany questions, and she wants to know what it is.
He does indeed have more to go on. He uses a computer to stretch out Tooms’ fingerprint, revealing that it now matches the elongated print they found at the first crime scene.
* * *
Tooms squats, hidden in the shadows of some bushes. He watches a man drive up and enter his home, then stalks him to the side of house. Gripping the brick wall, Tooms climbs to the roof and peers down a tight chimney. He stretches his arm inside and his bones begin to pop, reconfiguring his skeletal structure to squeeze through the tight opening.
Inside the home, Tooms leaps and attacks the unsuspecting victim.
* * *
At the crime scene, Colton is getting desperate, willing to give any theory a shot — well, almost any theory, he amends, when Mulder walks through the door. When he tries to stop Mulder from entering, Scully scolds him, pointing out that they have a right to be there.
Colton: Look, Dana, who’s side are you on?
Scully: The victims.
Mulder immediately notices smudged, ashy fingerprints on the fireplace, as well as evidence that Tooms took a trophy.
Back at the FBI offices, Scully learns that Tooms’ address is fake, that no one lives there. Mulder meanwhile has found evidence of a Eugene Tooms in the historical records.
They dig deeper, looking for more evidence of his history, but they find nothing — only the name investigating officer from the 1933 case, Detective Frank Briggs.
When they visit Briggs, he tells him that this was the most horrifying case he’s ever worked on, that felt a sense of pure evil, that all the crimes humanity has ever committed gave birth to a human monster. He also provides a box of evidence, including an old photograph of a Tooms from 1963.
He looks exactly the same.
Their conversation with Briggs leads Mulder and Scully to 66 Exiter Street, a run down and abandoned building. Inside Tooms’ old apartment, they find a hole leading down into dark tunnels hidden behind a mattress.
They climb down into the dark, where they find the collection of trophies, objects stolen from the victims. They also find a massive nest made of rags, newspapers, and bile — the place where Mulder believes Tooms would likely hibernate, only coming out every thirty years to collect and consume the livers needed to sustain him over the next hibernation.
As they’re leaving, Scully becomes briefly snagged on something, but she slips free and they leave. The camera pans up, revealing Tooms clinging to the ceiling, clutching Scully’s necklace.
Mulder and Scully set up a stake out at the location, which Colton immediately shuts down, sending the additional agents home. Scully is pissed.
Scully: Is this what it takes to climb the ladder, Colton?
Colton: All the way to the top.
Scully: Then, I can’t wait for you to fall off and land on your ass.
A still-furious Scully returns home, unaware that Tooms is watching her from the shadows. She runs a bath — the silhouette of Tooms reaching up toward a small opening in the window.
Meanwhile, Mulder, who never got the message, returns to the stake out to find his fellow FBI agents gone. He goes back inside the building to check things out and discovers Scully’s necklace among the pile of trophies. He rushes off, hoping to reach her in time.
Back in Scully’s bathroom, she starts opening a jar of bath oil when a plop of vile, orange bile falls onto her hands. She runs for her gun and searches the house for Tooms, but doesn’t notice the air vent at floor level.
Tooms grabs Scully’s ankle and knocks her to the ground. He lunges out the vent. She fights back, punching and kicking, but he pins her arms above her head and is about to thrust his fingers into her abdomen, when —
Mulder calls out, arriving just in time.
Tooms leaps for the window, attempting to escape. Being the badass she is, Scully recovers quickly, stopping him from getting away. He throws her off and tries to attack Mulder, but she quickly handcuffs him to the bathtub and he goes still.
Locked in an institution, Tooms tears up strips of newspaper, licking them one by one and tossing them into a corner in order to build a new nest. Observing, Scully explains that Tooms’ muscular and skeletal systems and metabolic rate are like nothing they’ve seen before.
After they leave, an orderly slips a tray through a small slot in the door. Tooms stops and focuses intently on the slot — then smiles.
“Squeeze” is the first standalone episode of the series, and one of my personal favorites. Like many standalone episodes that will come after, it leans heavily into horror. The scenes with Tooms are layered with dark, obscuring shadows, and his point of view shots provided the unsettling sense of stalking victims — not to mention his cold, hunter-eyed stares and the ways his bones pop as he stretches his body into tight spaces.
Tooms is a genuinely frightening character. As Mulder points out at the end of the episode, people can invest in bars on their windows and elaborate security systems, but they mean nothing to a creature like Tooms, who can slip right by them. And the end of the episode implies that his escape from imprisonment is inevitable.
Moving on, something I noticed this go around is that the episode is primarily from Scully’s point of view. While the first two episodes were similar, her points of view had more to do with Scully being everyman being drawn into Mulder’s weird world. In “Squeeze,” however, her point of view is used to a different effect, as we see her position within the FBI through her interactions with other FBI agents.
From the beginning, in which Scully chats over lunch with her old friend Colton, Scully begins to understand the underlying disdain people have for the X-files and the work associated with it. When Colton asks whether she’s had any close encounters of the third kind, she responds with “Is that really what people think I do?”
Her question brings something into light for her. By association with Mulder alone, Scully realizes, she is beginning to get her own spooky reputation.
Throughout the episodes, whenever Scully is around Colton and other agents the joking is always present. Even after she delivers her excellent profile of the killer and the agents invite her along on the investigation, they can’t help making a joke about this case being more “down to earth.”
Although Scully never says so out loud, her facials expressions and body gestures indicate that this teasing bothers her. There’s a sense of subtle embarrassment about the idea of being thought foolish for working on such “out there” cases. A couple of times in the episodes Colton offers her a way out of the X-files — and in the first instance at least, this appears to be tempting to her.
As this teasing and mocking continues, however, her perspective shifts. While the teasing toward herself has been mostly gentle, she witnesses the more open hostility toward Mulder. Moreover, Colton objects so strongly to Mulder’s theories that he allows the killer to go free. For Scully, the question of whether the truth is outside her known understanding of the world is less important than solving the case. As she tells Colton, she’s on the side of the victim.
This leads her to a decision. Even after Mulder gives her an out, saying that he would understand if she wanted to continue working with the other agents, Scully decides to stick with Mulder — at the very least because she’s curious to see what evidence he’s come up with to prove his strange theory. In this moment, she is essentially committing to the X-files.
Simultaneously, some of Mulder’s insecurities are revealed. While he’s used to being mocked for his beliefs and theories, he also can’t help but become defensive when that mocking comes into play. He responds to that hostility by leaning into the weirdness, sometimes coming up with fake theories (like the Reticulum), just to mess with their heads.
But his real anxiety surrounds how Scully might view him. When he asks whether she thinks he’s spooky, it’s hard to tell whether he’s joking or not. Many of his reactions throughout the episodes seem to be checking where Scully is at, whether she might begin to be influenced by the way the other agents perceive him. Later on in the episode, he even admits that he’s being territorial — because even though she disagrees with him, she still respects him and the work their doing. Likely, this is the first time that he’s had an ally, and it would be hard for him to let that go. Luckily for him, she chooses to stay.
As a final aside, “Squeeze” has one of my favorite Mulder moments. As they’re investigating Tooms’ dark basement, Mulder goes around like a fool touching all the things without any gloves on — even the massive nest, which is covered in goo. When Scully points out that she thinks the goo is bile, Mulder looks horrified at his bile covered fingers and says, “Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?”
I swear, it makes me giggle every single time. Put some freaking gloves on, man.
From This Episode:
A couple of repeatables in this episodes. Mulder is called Spooky not once but twice (I’m counting both) — and although he isn’t seen actually eating them, Mulder does have his infamous sunflower seeds (so I’m counting it.
From the Series as a Whole:
Dana Does an Autopsy: 1
Mulder Eats Sunflower Seeds: 2
Mulder is Called Spooky: 3
Appearance of Cigarette Smoking Man: 1