- For the character, see Eugene Victor Tooms.
Eugene Victor Tooms, the limb-stretching serial killer who Mulder previously captured, is released from prison and set free against Mulder's advice.
Druid Hill Sanitarium, Baltimore, MD: Dr. Aaron Monte checks on his patient, Eugene Victor Tooms, on the eve of his commitment review. He informs him that he's had a look at the statements of the doctors who will be testifying the following day, and the likelihood of his release is very good. Unbeknownst to him, Monte had interrupted Tooms as he was contorting his body to reach through the food slot, about to unlock his cell door.
At FBI headquarters, Special Agent Dana Scully meets her rarely-seen superior, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. As the Smoking Man inexplicably lurks in the background, Skinner demands more conclusive reports from Scully and by-the-book procedures; their high conviction/case-solving rate of 75% is, according to him, the only thing keeping the X-Files division open.
At the hearing, Dr. Pamela Karetzky testifies that Tooms has shown no signs of physiological dysfunction. Another expert attributes Tooms' attack on Scully to misplaced frustration over losing his job and being falsely arrested by the FBI. Special Agent Fox Mulder grows agitated as Judge Kann dismisses his mutation theory, despite Mulder's evidence showing that Tooms' fingerprints were at seven of 19 crime scenes dating back to 1903. Kann simply says that Tooms doesn't look a hundred years old. Mulder than alienates the judgement panel by arguing that Tooms is a freak of nature and will undoubtedly kill again if released, because he did not procure the last of his usual five livers, which he needs before going into hibernation for 30 years. Tooms is deemed fit to be released, providing he remains under Monte's care, returns to his animal control job, and resides with halfway-house couple Susan and Arlan Green. Mulder vows to keep watch on Tooms night and day, while assigning Scully to go back through the old murders for a lead. When she argues that this would involve unorthodox methods, he nearly accuses her of being cowed by Skinner's warning. As he leaves the courthouse, Tooms smirks at Mulder.
Lynne Acres Retirement Home: Scully seeks help from former detective Frank Briggs, who investigated Tooms' previous two killing sprees and is dismayed at the news of his release. He shows her a jar containing a human liver he'd found at Powhattan Mill's Ruxton Chemical Plant when it was under construction in 1933; the accompanying dead body was never found, something that was not the case with all the other murders Tooms allegedly committed. Briggs suspects that the body was dumped into the cement foundation of the chemical plant when it was still wet, possibly because something on it could implicate Tooms. When conventional methods of searching the foundation prove to be too slow, Briggs acts on "an old-fashioned hunch" and leads the excavation crew to a particular spot, where they dig up skeletal remains.
Tooms, back on the job in his Baltimore Animal Regulation van, is getting hungry, snacking on roadkill as he picks them off the ground before bagging them. He starts to approach a woman on the street in broad daylight when he is stopped by Mulder, who sarcastically asks for help finding his dog, Heinrich. Tooms drives off in a rage. That night, he follows a businessman home, but stays in his vehicle, being closely watched by Mulder. After several hours, Mulder accidentally falls asleep; upon awakening, he finds Tooms' van empty and starts searching the neighborhood - not realizing Tooms has entered the sewers through the manhole grate beneath his vent. After trying to enter through the toilet pipe and being stopped by the businessman's wife (who thinks it's a blockage and uses a pipe snake to force him out), he squeezes through a barred window; Mulder, nosing around the neighborhood, notices sewage from the drains on a windowsill, and tells the owner he suspects an intruder inside. While this forces Tooms to retreat, Mulder loses track of him.
At the Smithsonian Institute's Forensic Anthropology Lab a professor, examining the bones Briggs and Scully found, discovers that the skull matches the photo of a missing person suspected of being a 1933 victim. There are also strange gnaw marks near the victim's ribs. But it's not enough to convict Tooms. Scully worries about Mulder, who has carried on his stakeout alone for three days. She volunteers to take over surveillance in her own car. Mulder agrees and drives off, with Tooms hiding in his trunk.
On his couch, Mulder sleeps through the Vincent Price movie The Fly. Tooms enters through a baseboard vent, but rather than kill Mulder, simply scratches his own face until he bleeds. At a hospital the next day, a detective tells a doctor that police found Tooms unconscious in the street, beaten and kicked in the jaw. Tooms says Mulder did it. While police speak to Mulder at his apartment, they find an athletic shoe matching the imprint on Tooms' jaw. As they prepare to haul Mulder in for questioning, he notices a screw underfoot - from the vent.
At Skinner's office, as Smoking Man watches, Mulder notes forensic evidence shows no foot was inside the shoe when it connected with Tooms' face, and insists Tooms is trying to frame him. Scully lies that Mulder was with her on surveillance when Tooms was admitted to the hospital. After sending Scully out, Skinner expresses admiration for Mulder's talents, but tells him that if stress is making him or other agents behave inappropriately, he should take a vacation, something Mulder halfheartedly agrees with. With a glance toward Smoking Man, Skinner orders Mulder to stay away from Tooms, noting that this was a close call and if it happens again, all of Mulder's Congressional contacts together won't be enough to save his job.
Using dental records, Scully and the Smithsonian have positively concluded that the gnaw marks on the skeletal remains belong to Tooms, which is the proof they need. At Tooms' halfway house, the Greens are just leaving as Monte arrives to check up on Tooms. While Monte makes small talk, Tooms' hunger gets the better of him and he attacks. Mulder and Scully arrive shortly afterward and find the doctor's corpse. Mulder realizes that Tooms will go into hibernation now that he has claimed his fifth victim.
The agents go to 66 Exeter Street, the address of Tooms' old apartment, but the building has been torn down; a shopping mall, City Square, now occupies the site. Mulder enters a narrow utility passageway beneath the foot of an escalator. He pushes through a vent into a cave-like area, finding evidence of Tooms' nesting tendencies - a wall of newspapers held together with bile. Suddenly, the naked and animalistic Tooms bursts through the wall and attacks. With Scully's help, Mulder escapes and turns on the escalator, which drags Tooms to a gruesome, crushing death inside the escalator mechanisms.
Skinner, reading Scully's unorthodox report, asks if the Smoking Man believes it. He knowingly replies, "Of course I do." Outside, Mulder observes a cocoon in a tree and tells Scully he thinks a change is coming for the X Files.
- Before the creation of this installment, an alternative sequel script to "Squeeze", which introduced the character of Eugene Victor Tooms, was written and submitted to 20th Century Fox by Tooms actor Doug Hutchison, entitled "Dark He Was and Golden-Eyed". For legal reasons, the script was returned to Hutchison without being read. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11, p. 29)
- The genesis of this episode was when writer Glen Morgan, Christmas shopping at a mall in Los Angeles, saw men working on an escalator that was open and exposed. The sight inspired him to consider the scare factor of an urban myth involving an initially unspecified monster living underneath an escalator. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 148) Executive Producer Chris Carter recollected, "As the season was coming to an end, winding down to an end, we thought, 'How would we like to scare people again in the same way?'" The writers decided the best option would be to make this installment a sequel to "Squeeze", by again focusing on the character of Eugene Victor Tooms. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) However, Morgan and writing partner James Wong had never before done a follow-up to a show they had written. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
- This installment also came about because ratings for "Squeeze" and fan response to the Tooms character were high enough to expedite a sequel. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 48; Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57) The episode's story grew out of frustration that Glen Morgan and James Wong had encountered while working on "Squeeze" and the writers' belief that Tooms actor Doug Hutchison could do an even better job with Director David Nutter (rather than Harry Longstreet, who had directed "Squeeze"). (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50) Clarified Morgan, "This was a real chance to correct that part of it and do some of those things that were cut out of the first episode." Nutter offered, "For the second show, they really wanted to make it good." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73) Regarding how he and Wong proceeded from the notion of featuring Tooms in this outing, Morgan noted, "Everything worked backward from there." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 148)
- This episode was additionally influenced by the fact it was written around the time when murder victim Polly Klaas was kidnapped by Richard Allen Davis, who had been released from prison prior to killing her. "We thought, 'Tooms–what a perfect person to release,' so all that played into that show," recalled James Wong. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57)
- Left to assume many people hadn't seen "Squeeze", Glen Morgan and James Wong were inclined to incorporate a quick recap of the earlier episode in this one. "That's why act one is at Tooms's trial," Morgan commented. "You could recap what the rules were with this monster." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
- The FBI-centered conspiracy facets of this installment were incorporated due to advice from Fox. In essence, the studio executives there suspected it was the right time in the first season to return to the conspiracy storyline. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57) Chris Carter noted, "It was an opportunity to introduce the character of Walter Skinner." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
- The development of this episode was impacted on by the fact "Darkness Falls" was shot immediately before it and had challenged the shooting company with the filming of many outdoors scenes, in poor weather conditions. At one point, R.W. Goodwin consequently made a request for the writing of this episode. Related Glen Morgan, "Bob Goodwin called me up and said, 'You know those keys on your typewriter that spell EXT for exterior? They're now broken.' So 'Tooms' had a lot of interiors." (X-Files Confidential, p. 72)
- This episode's script went through six drafts, all of which were submitted in March 1994. One draft was submitted on both 1st and 3rd of that month, before two drafts were submitted on 8th, then a single draft on both 9th and 11th.
- The setting of the mall located at 66 Exeter Street in Baltimore (including the mall's interior) was actually City Square Mall, at 555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver. The plaza which appears in the episode's final scene was filmed on steps north of City Square. (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 48)
- The aspect of this episode David Nutter found most challenging was how to bring back such a highly regarded character as Eugene Victor Tooms. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50) Nutter explained, "The main thing for me on that show was, knowing how popular this character was, I felt it was important to give him his just deserts on the second show [....] I wanted to punch that up as much as possible." (X-Files Confidential, pp. 73 & 74)
- A contortionist named Pepper, from Seattle, was hired for scenes exhibiting Tooms' physical stretching abilities, having previously done the same kind of work for "Squeeze". (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
- There was a palpable sense of exhaustion on the set of this episode. "It was at the end of the season, and everybody was just really fried," said Doug Hutchison, adding that increasing attention from the media and the fans, the demanding work schedules, and harsh winter weather had weighed heavily on the shooting company. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54)
- Remembering the making of this installment, R.W. Goodwin remarked, with a laugh, "Nothing brilliant to say about the episode." Goodwin's children and their friends made repeated visits to the set during the shoot, as they were big fans of the Eugene Tooms character. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
- Doug Hutchison protested when he was informed he would be clothed in his final scene herein, believing nakedness at this point made much more sense for the character he was portraying. He even refused to wear a G-string. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54) Therefore, at his own suggestion, Hutchison played the scene while nude. He later recalled in regards to filming the scene, "They covered me with Karo syrup and food coloring, and it was cold! I kept sticking to the walls." (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 149) Hutchison was meanwhile ill with a cold and the green mixture slathered over his body was not only so sticky he couldn't wear a robe, during the breaks in the filming, but had also come straight from the refrigerator. "I was sick as a dog and naked as a jaybird and had this icy cold slime all over me. I was literally sticking all over everything and everything was sticking to me. I had lint in the most preposterous places on my body. It was really kind of gross," Hutchison laughed. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 54)
- Chris Carter was visiting the set during the filming of the escalator scene. "So, I walk onto the stage and here is this stark naked man, covered in this gooey, yellow substance," he remarked, "and it was shocking, you know, because here is this man walking around naked [...] But I think the thing that I felt worst about was that David Duchovny was gonna actually have to get into this elevator shaft with this naked, greasy, grimy, sweaty man and to have to [...] pretend to be afraid of him, which was probably the easy part." ("The Truth About Season One", TXF Season 1 DVD special features) Carter also remembered, "It caused a little bit of discomfort, which was good. I think it actually added to the scene. I think David was very nervous about being in a little tiny confined space with a naked man, to be honest. And I think it made the scare, the creep, all that more real, certainly for David." ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
- Interior filming in City Square Mall was only permitted after 6 p.m. Location Manager Louisa Gradnitzer noted, "Tooms' demise in the escalator was a major concern as location production assistants, special effects, and our on-site liaison worked frantically to remove the 'blood' from the surface of the escalator. Seepage into the elevator's motors might have caused extensive and expensive damage." (X Marks the Spot (On Location with The X-Files), p. 48)
- This is the first of only three episodes of The X-Files to prominently feature a "monster" character already featured in the series, the others being Season 5's "Kitsunegari", in which Robert Patrick Modell reappears after his introduction in Season 3's "Pusher", and Season 7's "Orison", which features Donald Pfaster after he first appeared in Season 2's "Irresistible".
- This episode marks the only appearance of Assistant Director Walter Skinner in Season 1 of The X-Files. However, from the second season onwards, he became a recurring character on the series, additionally appearing in The Lone Gunmen episode "The Lying Game".
- This is the first episode in which the Cigarette Smoking Man speaks. The producers later joked they hadn't even known, until then, that actor William B. Davis could talk, ultimately delighted by what he brought to the role. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 149)
- During the scene in which Tooms sneaks into Mulder's apartment and fakes an assault from the FBI agent, the original version of The Fly can be seen on Mulder's television as he sleeps.
- Glen Morgan changed his opinion of this episode. He reflected, "When we were doing 'Tooms', I was disappointed, and then we were mixing in the sound and I thought 'Man, I love this.' Doug Hutchison really stole the show." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73)
- David Nutter ultimately considered himself "lucky" he was available to direct this installment. "I think it's a real classic horror story [....] I'm really happy with the finale of that show," he enthused. (X-Files Confidential, p. 73) Nutter was also very pleased with Doug Hutchison's performance herein. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, p. 50) He credited the script as well as the lead actors with making successful the scene involving Mulder and Scully sitting stake-out in a car, commenting, "That scene was really the writing [....] Basically it was a situation where the writing came off the actors' tongues and David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] did it very, very naturally." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57)
- Chris Carter was likewise proud of this outing. "This was sort of the command performance of Tooms [....] In a way, it was almost a vindication episode. I think it turned out very well." (X-Files Confidential, p. 73) Carter also believed David Duchovny's fear of an unclothed Doug Hutchison made the scene scary for the audience too. ("Chris Carter Talks About Season One Episodes: Tooms", TXF Season 1 DVD special features)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen household rating of 8.6, with an audience share of 15. This means that roughly 8.6 percent of all television-equipped households, and 15 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 8.1 million households. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 248)
- This episode was rebroadcast, along with "Squeeze", on 4th November 1995, when the cancellation of a highly publicized boxing match involving heavy-weight boxing champion Mike Tyson – a match called off because Tyson broke his thumb – left a two-hour hole in the schedule. The resultant "Tooms Night" surprised and delighted the viewing audience, including Doug Hutchison. (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 11, p. 28)
- Cinefantastique (Vol. 26/27, No. 6/1, p. 57) scores this episode 3 and a half out of 4 stars. The magazine remarks, "This episode is a lot of scary fun. Doug Hutchison as Tooms is as dispassionately evil as ever, and scripters Morgan and Wong borrow a page from Dirty Harry by having Tooms frame Mulder for assault, but with a wonderful twist–this time the victim doesn't have to pay for a beating because he can beat himself up [....] And the hour doesn't go by without any number of humorous lines. One of the pleasures of this episode is Mitch Pileggi's Skinner. Unsympathetic, by-the-book, Skinner nevertheless commands the screen, and Pileggi's chemistry with Duchovny and Anderson is apparent from the start." In addition, Cinefantastique terms the scene depicting Mulder and Scully sitting in a parked car on stake-out as "one of the best scenes all year," and proceeds by stating, "Funny, yet full of tension, that one small scene took their partnership yet another step further, revealing something both about Mulder and Scully."
- The X-Files Magazine (The X-Files Magazine Volume 1, Issue 21, p. 49) described the interplay between Skinner and Mulder in this episode as "canny scripting from Morgan and Wong." The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002 (p. 66) highlighted the stake-out scene as one of the twenty most romantic scenes between Mulder and Scully in the entire series.
- In his reference book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen, writer Robert Shearman rates this episode 4 and a half out of 5 stars. He critiques, "The plot goes a bit awry, but the moments are excellent. Because it's an episode with a lot of continuity baggage [....] it's hard to spot that maybe its true legacy is that here is the first time that The X-Files tries its hand at comedy. It's a jet black comedy, to be sure, but no less funny for all that [....] Morgan and Wong are savvy enough to realise we've already seen Tooms kill people in grisly ways in 'Squeeze' – and so all that's left in the sequel is to see him being foiled instead [....] But what's brilliant about the comedy is how unsettling it still is: even more than in 'Squeeze', watching Tooms contort through bars makes the brain struggle to match what's being presented so plausibly with what we know is impossible [....] This story doesn't offer the same shocks as 'Squeeze', but it does provide instead greater and subtler surprises. Less obviously a horror story than its predecessor, it feels somehow more sophisticated, an examination of what the series' clichés are, and where the series will go from here. And it's brimming with confidence. The story itself may not be up to much – it's more a series of set pieces, and very little investigation – but for its breezy macabre wit alone, this is that rare thing: a sequel which is better than the original." Shearman cites Mulder and Scully's stake-out as possibly the best of all the scenes, enthusing, "It's funny, it's touching, it's true – and it's the best we've yet seen Duchovny and Anderson perform together."
- Following the completion of this episode, Doug Hutchison used frequent appearances at The X-Files conventions to lobby a second return to the series. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 149)
- Doug Hutchison as Eugene Victor Tooms
- Paul Ben Victor as Dr. Aaron Monte
- Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner (First appearance)
- Henry Beckman as Detective Frank Briggs