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Squeeze / Tooms

It's rare for the X-files crew to reuse a character, but when you've got a yellow-eyed, liver-eating, air-duct-squeezing maestro like Eugene Victor Tooms you've just got to bring him back. Since they're so closely related, I'm treating "Squeeze" and "Tooms" like a two-part episode. Let's get to it.

"Squeeze" has a violent start. George Usher, a Baltimore businessman, returns to his office in the evening to work on a project. His project will remain permanently unfinished because someone, or something, crawls from a six-inch air duct and plucks Usher's liver from his body. It's messy, it's violent and the cops have no idea how it happened because the point of entry (to the room, not the body) isn't apparent.

The point of entry is a sticking point in two other murders and FBI brown-noser Tom Colton is stumped. Colton and Scully were in the same academy class, so Colton knows she'll be an asset to the investigation. Mulder, on the other hand, frightens him. Any cooperation with "Spooky" Mulder will look bad on an employment review. Scully's loyalty to Mulder and the X-files is deep and she wants her partner involved. Colton reluctantly agrees.

Within 30 seconds of entering the crime scene Mulder has insulted Colton, found the point of entry and uncovered a fingerprint. He might be Spooky, but he's a damn good investigator.

The fingerprint stimulates Mulder's mind and it's not long before he finds an old X-file with striking similarities. Thirty years prior, Baltimore was home to another rash of liver-removing killings. A little more digging reveals similar murders in 1933 and 1903. Fingerprints found at previous murders match the current print (especially since all were grossly elongated). Mulder believes one person is responsible for each set of killings but Scully doesn't buy it. How could a 100-year-old man overtake a strong adult, then have the strength to rip their livers from their bodies?

Good question, and Scully ignores it in favor of a traditional profile. She determines that the killer will return to the scene of a previous murder because of obsessive compulsive tendencies. A stakeout proves Scully knows what she's doing. The feds catch Eugene Victor Tooms emerging from the air ducts of George Usher's office building.

The diminutive, quiet-spoken Tooms is put through a lie-detector test, which he passes easily. Mulder sees something different in the test results. He inserted two odd questions -- one asking if Tooms was over 100 years old, another about the murders in 1963 -- and Tooms failed both. The feds dismiss this as another case of Mulder spookiness, but Mulder is convinced Tooms is their man. Too bad Tooms was released.

With Tooms running loose again, it isn't long before another businessman turns up without a liver. The crime scene is a suburban Baltimore house and once again Mulder arrives and makes an important discovery -- Tooms didn't just take the new victim's liver, he stole an object from the man's mantel. Mulder hypothesizes that each time Tooms kills he takes an item as a trophy.

The only way they'll ever legally stop Tooms is to tie him to the previous murders, so Mulder and Scully settle in for a day of microfiche surfing. Scanning through official Baltimore certificates they slowly piece together that Tooms' spree began in 1903 with the murder of a man living in the same apartment building. But that's where the trail ends. Except for the current address of the investigating officer of the 1963 murders, there's little to go on.

The former investigator is Frank Briggs, an old Baltimore sheriff holed up at a retirement home. Briggs has been haunted by these murders for decades and he gladly helps Mulder and Scully with their investigation. Dragging a trunk of homicidal goodies from under his bed, he shows off the evidence he's gathered over the years. Beneath mounds of newspaper clippings are two things: A jar containing a piece of a human liver and a set of surveillance photos taken of Tooms in 1963. Remarkably, Tooms hasn't aged a day in thirty years. Briggs also tells them that each murder featured the disappearance of a small personal effect -- a brush, a mug or something the killer could claim as a trophy.

The agents travel to 66 Exeter Street to investigate the legal residence of Tooms. Inside they find an infested apartment featuring a prominent hole in the wall. Scully, without missing a beat, climbs down the hole. With Mulder in tow she traipses through an old coal cellar and together they find a neat little table displaying Tooms' trophies from over the years. Looking up they see a huge nest made of newspaper and rags. Scully thinks the nest is glued together with human bile. Mulder, his hand dripping with goo, asks, "Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly before betraying my cool exterior?"

On the way out of Tooms' dungeon, Scully catches her pendant necklace on something (Note: It wasn't her crucifix. She didn't have it at this point). She untangles it and the agents leave, but a glance toward the shadows on the ceiling shows Tooms clutching the pendant. He's already claimed his next trophy, now he needs the victim.

A stakeout is set up outside Tooms' lair, but it's called off a few hours later when Agent Colton deems it unnecessary. He ridicules Scully for her involvement with Mulder and the X-files, but she wastes no time telling Colton where to stick it. Pissed off and ready to fight she drives home. All the poor woman wants is a bath and a breather from liver-plucking bandits. It's not going to happen.

As she draws her bath a sticky clump of Tooms goo drops from an air duct and lands on her wrist. Scully rushes to the living room for her gun, but Tooms springs from a floorboard vent and prepares to claim his fifth victim. He doesn't know who he's dealing with -- Scully smacks the little guy around, and fights valiantly (in that valiant Scully way). Mulder, who minutes before had found Scully's pendant among Tooms' trophy collection, storms into her apartment and together they subdue the yellow-eyed killer.

Tooms is incarcerated in a high-security facility, but they should have attached a "To Be Continued" label on the end of this one. Later in season one the petite killer rides again in...

"Tooms" -- Our little buddy is back and he's still hungry for liver -- one liver to be exact. Incarcerated at the Druid Hills Sanguinarium, he's on the brink of stretching his very long arm down a very long hall and pulling a very distant lever. The Great Escape is thwarted when Tooms hears a door open. He retracts the Go-Go-Gadget arm just before his court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Aaron Monte, drops by to tell him the good news. Dr. Monte has taken a sneak peek at the findings of a review board and they've deemed Tooms fit to be part of society.

The next day proves to be a big one. Mulder is prepared to tell the review board that Tooms is a raving loony with a taste for liver. Scully, meanwhile, is being grilled by a very unhappy Assistant Director Skinner. Skinner craves order and he wants the X-files to go by the book from now on. If it weren't for the X-files' 75 percent case solution rate they wouldn't be allowed to exist. Scully crinkles her chin and leaves. (Note: Maybe Mulder and Scully successfully solve cases when we're not looking, but I think 75 percent is a bit off given what we've seen).

At the hearing, Mulder does his best Perry Mason impersonation, but the results are closer to Marcia Clark. Despite the evidence he presents, the board rules in Tooms' favor. The little liver-eater has been set free, and Mulder knows he's one liver from a 30-year slumber. Even though the judicial process has deemed Tooms' a free man, Mulder decides it's best if he follow Tooms everywhere he goes.

And follow he does. Mulder thwarts liver-plucking advances on a number of Baltimorians (particularly those wearing purple or sky-blue trench coats). Tooms is pretty upset with Mulder's diligence and he gets that creepy yellow-eye thing at an unhealthy rate.

Scully visits former-investigator Frank Briggs at the Lynne Acres Retirement Home. In order to convict Tooms they're going to need evidence. Scully is stumped but Briggs remembers an anomaly from the 1933 investigation. In 1963 all five liverless bodies were found at the crime scene, but in '33 one body was hidden. Briggs thinks this body contained evidence revealing Tooms as the killer. The liver souvenir Briggs has been keeping in a trunk all these years wasn't from any of the known victims. The liver sample was found years back at a chemical plant construction site and Briggs believes the missing body is buried somewhere in the plant's foundation.

Scully pulls her weight and gets an x-ray team to scan the floor of the plant. She shouldn't have bothered because Briggs' intuition (and rickety wheelchair) find the body's hiding place. Sure enough, the excavation yields a very old skeleton.

Going by the book goes out the window when Scully enlists the help of a Smithsonian researcher. Using high-tech tools and some digital trickery she and the researcher match teeth marks on the skeleton's ribs to Tooms' dental records.

Tooms, however, has a little trickery of his own. He sneaks into Mulder's apartment late one night, but instead of stealing Mulder's liver he violently pokes himself in the face and beats his cheek with Mulder's hi-tops. The next morning the local police show up to bring Mulder in for questioning. He avoids a legal jam, but Skinner forbids him from going anywhere near Tooms. We all know how often Mulder listens to Skinner.

Tooms' appetite for liver is at an all-time high and he simply can't wait any longer. Dr. Monte drops by for a home-visit at exactly the wrong time and Tooms jumps him with gnashing teeth and clawing fingers. With the fifth liver planted in his stomach, Tooms is ready for another 30-year nap.

The bile-and-newspaper lair Tooms used to call home has been replaced by a shopping mall, but the squirmy killer has found a suitable alternative beneath the mall's escalator. Tooms' slumber is interrupted when Mulder drops by, and unfortunately for Mulder, Tooms isn't a happy guy when he wakes up. The yellow-eyed bandit bursts from his cocoon and chases Mulder down a narrow crawlspace. Mulder reaches daylight, gets a hand from Scully, then switches the escalator on and turns Tooms into a stain on the stairs.

At the time it appeared that Tooms was finally gone, but we all know that anyone and anything can reappear on the X-files. Nonetheless, these were two fun monster episodes that many of you enjoyed.

Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.



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