“Do you think I’m spooky?”
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 man arrives at his office … something follows.
The wires in the elevator twitch, as if being climbed. The screws on a tiny vent unscrew, something coming 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 she’s experienced “any close encounters of the third kind,” making a pointed jan at 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 her help on the case and, when she agrees, he reluctantly agrees to let Mulder come along.
At the crime scene, Mulder and Scully chat about why Mulder wasn’t the one asked to help. Mostly, it’s 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, finding a strange elongated fingerprint.
Back at their office, Mulder points out that the weird fingerprint is actually an exact match for fingerprints in 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 to hear 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 their own 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 of which 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: 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 into the set: 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. Mulder pushed his theory that Tooms is the same killer from the 1930s and the 1960s.
It’s a ridiculous 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 chooses to follow him up the stairs. After all, he has to have more evidence that Tooms is guilty 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 alter Tooms’ seemingly normal fingerprint, stretching it out to reveal 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 of the 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 he felt a sense of pure evil. He believes 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.
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 period.
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 she is being watched 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 her message, returns to the stake out—only 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 orange bile falls onto her hand. 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. But Scully, being the badass she is, recovers quickly and grabs him, 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 provide the unsettling sense of stalking his 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. The end of the episode even implies that his escape from imprisonment is inevitable.
Beyond the horror, it’s interesting how this episode emphasizes Scully’s point of view. While somewhat similar, focusing on her viewpoint for the first two episodes 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 agents.
From the very beginning of the episode, Scully begins to understand the underlying disdain people have for the X-Files and the work associated with it. When her old friend 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 to light. Scully realizes that, by association with Mulder alone, she is beginning to get her own spooky reputation.
Throughout “Squeeze”, whenever Scully is around Colton and other agents, she is witness to constant joking about Mulder and the X-Files. 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” for her.
Although Scully never says so out loud, her facial 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 leastthis 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 him — 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, Scully 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 they’re 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 laugh every single time. I mean, really. 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 that, as well.
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