Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong Directed by: Harry Longstreet Aired on: September 24, 1993 Rewatched on: February 24, 2020
Squeeze is the first episode of The X Files that wasn’t written by Chris Carter, nor directed by Daniel Sackheim. Whereas it is director Harry Longstreet’s first and only episode, writers Glen Morgan and James Wong teamed up several times and managed to leave their mark on this series. In fact, I consider them to be crucial for establishing several key elements of the show.
After The Pilot (S1E1) and Deep Throat (S1E2), The X Files set itself up as The Alien Show. In Squeeze, however, it is stressed early on that the culprit isn’t going to be aliens, making it the very first Monster-of-the-Week episode.
Those who know me, know that I prefer the Monster-of-the-Weeks over the Plot Episodes. The reason for this, is simple: the plot is like a tower. It accumulates. If you don’t like one of the building blocks, it can be hard to like the tower as a whole. And there are several blocks that I don’t like.
The Monster-of-the-Weeks, however, live and operate in a world of their own. They can stand tall, or fall down, but they do so individually. They are rarely affected by the overarching plot. Therefore, whereas I usually struggle to overlook flaws in the Plot Episodes early on, I like plenty of Monster-of-the-Weeks, whether they be in season 1 or season 11.
Squeeze is easily one of the most important episodes in the entire series. It founded the base of all Monster-of-the-Weeks that are to come, and did so by doing everything right.
The episode starts off with the monster that gave me nightmares as a child: Eugene Victor Tooms. In the opening scene, he enters through a vent and murders a business man in his office.
Next up, Scully is having lunch with her old classmate, Tom Colton. Colton introduces her to the case of the murdered business man. He asks if she wants to join and cannot help but tease her for working on the X-Files, by calling her Mrs. Spooky.
Something this episode does well, is show us that Mulder is a pariah, and Scully is becoming one by working alongside him. Mulder more-or-less accepted this role of outcast years ago. In the scene where he first meets Colton, he jokes around about Reticulans, mainly to incite a response.
Scully, unlike Mulder, isn’t used to getting mocked by her peers and longs for their approval. She works all night to come up with a psychological profile of the killer and organizes a stakeout, where Tooms is eventually caught.
Mulder is convinced that Tooms is the guy they’re looking for. In the polygraph test, Tooms fails on the questions Mulder asked. However, they are so out there that no one believes him. No one but Scully, that is. By now, she has seen what Mulder is capable of and knows that he should be taken seriously.
Dialogue that I find incredibly significant, is the following:
- Colton: "[Dana,] you coming?" - Scully: "Tom, I wanna thank you for letting me put in some time with the [Violent Crimes Unit], but I am officially assigned to the X-Files." - Colton: "I'll see what I can do about that." - Scully: "Tom, I can look out for myself."
You know what this scene reminds me of? This moment in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001):
The fact that this scene is essential, is also shown in the way the episode has been directed. Take a look at this:
Before the scene I mentioned above, whenever Mulder, Scully, and Colton are in the same room, Scully and Colton are shown standing together, vs. Mulder.
Compared to this:
After the scene, when all three are present in the same room, she is standing with Mulder, vs. Colton.
Guys, that scene, is where Scully officially chooses to work with Mulder. This time around, no one is ordering her to work with him. She can leave whenever she wants. Mulder even offers it to her, he says he isn’t going to “hold it against her” if she wants to continue working with Colton and the others.
But Scully, whether it is because she has a curious nature herself, believes there’s more to Mulder than meets the eye, or even has a little crush on him, chose him there and then, despite knowing very well that she committed career suicide.
(Excuse me for the quality of this screencap, but check out how happy Mulder is when Scully tells him that she wants to see what else he’s got. My shipper’s heart can hardly take it.)
Anyway, now that their partnership has been secured, Mulder and Scully meet the old man who investigated Tooms back in the thirties. This scene leads the duo to 66 Exeter Street, and to this iconic moment:
Tooms snatches Scully’s necklace and starts targeting her. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully ask for a stakeout, which Colton then calls off. Scully is furious and Mulder, upon realizing that no one is keeping an eye on Tooms and subsequently discovering Scully’s necklace, rushes through Chernobyl to save her:
Tooms, by now, is assaulting Scully in her apartment, in a scene that becomes a million times more awkward when bearing this anecdote in mind:
The episode ends with Scully and Mulder overpowering Tooms and him being put behind bars.
As this review, and my lack of negative remarks, indicate: I really love this episode. It’s not as expensive, flashy, or colorful as some Monster-of-the-Weeks from later seasons, but it’s incredibly solid and holds up well.
Tooms truly is a terrifying monster. The soundtrack that accompanies him to illustrate this is – once more – top-notch. And the story of how Mulder and Scully manage to catch him, is exciting, conclusive, and satisfying.
The strongest asset, however, is the way Mulder and Scully are written. I really like their characterization, and there’s not a single line in the episode that bothers me. They stand strong, both as individuals, and as a team: they’re small, goofy fish trying to find their place within the big pond that is the FBI. They are continuously mocked and teased. Mulder accepted this, although he doesn’t relish in it (“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, on the other hand, learns throughout this episode that if she wants to work with Mulder, she will have to come to terms with the fact that she isn’t going to be taken seriously; that it’s Them vs. The World.
Yet when they do work together, they are stronger. They manage to solve the case and to defeat Tooms. It might not earn them respect they deserve, but at least they did something right in the world.
Thanks for reading!
Next up: Conduit