CTP Episode of the Day - 12.06.06 – Tooms

Today's Cherished Episode: Tooms (1x20)
Original Air Date: April 22, 1994
Written By: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed By: David Nutter

Mulder becomes personally involved when Eugene Tooms, the serial killer who extracts and eats human livers, is released from prison.

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(backwards shot mentioned below))

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"They're out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don't know why, but any excuse will do. Now, I don't really care about my record, but you'd be in trouble just for sitting in this car and I'd hate to see you carry an official reprimand in your file because of me."

"Fox ..."

"I ... I even made my parents call me Mulder. So ... Mulder."

"Mulder, I wouldn't put myself on the line for anybody but you."

"If there's an iced tea in that bag, could be love."

Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer."

Some "Tooms" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The first episode written by X-Files writers and producers Glen Morgan and James Wong was the series' first non-UFO episode, "Squeeze," with Mulder and Scully chasing down Eugene Victor Tooms, the liver-eating, elastic-limbed mutant from Baltimore. The shoot was a difficult one. "I felt the director had no respect for us or our ideas," Wong said. "In fact, he had no respect for the script. He didn't shoot coverage and we didn't like the dailies that were coming back. Ultimately, we had to go back up and reshoot some coverage, shoot a scene he didn't shoot, and add a lot of inserts to make it work. I'll always be disappointed because of what it could have been, but I think it turned out okay."

-- Despite those problems, the episode got high marks from fans. "We liked him a lot," Wong noted of the character, who was voted Best Villain by X-Files fans on the American OnLine computer network. He and Morgan felt another Tooms episode would be their chance to do right by him. "The fans liked him and he was scary and we decided to finish him off," Wong said. "When David Nutter was chosen to direct, we thought, 'What a perfect combination.' We liked the character, we liked the actor who played him, and we had a great experience with David" [who directed Morgan and Wong's "Ice" and "Beyond the Sea"].

-- Morgan and Wong would often construct episodes around a certain moment or visual concept, as the duo did with the original "Squeeze" (what would happen if someone squeezed in through the large ventilator shaft next-door to their office). In this case, Morgan said he was Christmas shopping at a Los Angeles mall and saw men working on the escalator, which was open and exposed. That prompted him to consider the scare factor of an urban myth stemming from some sort of monster living underneath an escalator. And who, he thought, better to be doing that than Eugene Tooms? "Everything worked backward from there," he said.

-- After playing Tooms in "Squeeze," actor Doug Hutchison was so eager and determined to reprise the role that he wrote a sequel script entitled, "Dark He Was and Golden-Eyed" and sent it to executive producer Chris Carter. "I was adamant about coming back on the show," Hutchison declared. In return, he received a phone call from one of the network lawyers informing him that legal ramifications prevented his script from even being read. By then it was a moot point anyway; shortly after he sent his script to Carter, his agent called with the news that The X-Files wanted him back for "Tooms."

-- "I fell in love with Tooms," he explained. "It was a very sweet challenge for me. I'm a very animated person, and I tend to bring a lot of animation to my roles. This was a particularly good challenge because I felt there was a stillness to this character. I had been intrigued by stillness for quite a while since seeing Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter [another fan of raw human livers] in Silence of the Lambs. He captured the art of stillness so well, and I was inspired by his performance."

-- Hutchison's ideas about the character that he included in his script differed quite a bit from Morgan and Wong's. "The fly in the ointment for me was how Tooms hibernated for 30 years if he gets five livers," Hutchison said. "I wanted to figure out a way to have him around forever. So in my script, Tooms was in an experiment to find out how he could remain so young and immortal; he was infused with a drug that backfired and ended up escaping the asylum. Then he started eating livers like M&M's -- he went on a rampage! I also dealt with where Tooms might have come from." Hutchison's script suggested he was an incarnation of a ravenous, liver-eating Central American Indian God -- "So it had a lot of flashbacks. And Tooms talked a lot at the end because Scully and I had a confrontation."

-- "Tooms" was the first encore appearance by a villain, but was equally noteworthy for several other "firsts."

-- The episode featured the first appearance by Mitch Pileggi as Assistant Director Skinner (who wasn't seen again until the second season). Landing the role of Skinner (named for a family friend of Glen Morgan) was a case of third time lucky for Mitch Pileggi. On two previous occasions, he had auditioned to play FBI agents on the series, but when the original Section Chief Blevins played by Charles Cioffi was unavailable for "Tooms," Skinner was created.

-- "At the time of my first auditions, I was shaving my head," said Mitch Pileggi, "and Chris didn't think the look was right for the characters I was reading, which were both FBI agents. I came back the third time for Skinner, and fortunately my hair, what I have of it -- all of it, my flowing locks -- had grown back, and it worked. It just clicked. I went in and read for I think Chris and Jim Wong were there, and I guess I had the right attitude for Skinner. So they hired me for just the one episode."

-- But during the summer hiatus between seasons one and two, The X-Files came calling for Pileggi again. "They called and asked if I would do the eight-episode arc at the beginning of the season and do a recurring bit," Pileggi said. "I don't know what kind of reaction from fans they got to the character of Skinner initially, but I know a lot of the decision to bring in the character on a recurring basis was because Gillian was pregnant. They needed to take the show in a different direction while she was dealing with that, so I think bringing in Skinner was to help compensate for her situation. Things seemed to be working well and I think Chris was happy with the way things turned out. So at the end of season two, they asked me if I wanted to sign a contract -- a six year contract -- and I said yes. But I couldn't tell anyone because Chris always wanted fans to worry whether or not Skinner would be killed off."

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-- "Tooms" didn't reveal much about Skinner, but Pileggi said that each subsequent script peeled away another layer of Skinner's life. "Until 'One Breath,' I didn't know that he was an ex-Marine," Pileggi said. "They may have come up with that because of the way I was playing the character, but Jim Wong told me that Skinner was pretty much somebody who at one time had been in the same place as Mulder was. He was a field special agent, and worked his way up through the ranks, eventually to the bureaucratic position he had as Assistant Director. I like to think that he was trying to direct Mulder -- a bit like the stern father with the disobedient son. Even though Skinner wasn't that much older than Mulder and Scully, I felt his feelings for them were very paternal."

-- Pileggi explained that much of Skinner stemmed from a source close to home. "He was based a lot on my father, who was once in a very similar position to Skinner. I remember when I was a kid sitting in his office, and watching how he dealt with his employees. I think I did it unconsciously, but my family certainly pointed out what they saw on screen was a lot like my dad."

-- "Skinner was very much by the book," Pileggi said, "whereas Mulder was kind of a loose wire whose methods were a lot more unorthodox than what Skinner envisioned. That's where the conflict came in. I felt it was important for there to be conflict between the characters, even though some people perceived Skinner as being too much of a hardass and wanted him to soften up on Mulder. But if he had, it would have been boring. You had to have that conflict -- that's what makes drama."

-- "A big aspect of the character was the atmosphere that I worked in," Pileggi explained. "You walk into that office and you get such a feeling of power, so as soon as I put that suit on, and my glasses, and walked into that office, it was like the character was there. That set was so important to the development, sitting behind that desk, and what I had on the desk, the pictures on the wall, the flag; that whole feeling was very important. Once I had the recurring role, I hoped that they could work in more situations where Skinner got out into the field more -- but I did like that office!"

-- The episode also featured the first line of dialogue from the Cigarette-Smoking Man ("Of course I do."). Chris Carter originally wanted the Cigarette-Smoking Man to remain very mysterious and thus he never envisioned the character speaking at all. But Morgan and Wong changed all that. The producers joked that they didn't even know until then if William B. Davis could speak, only to be delighted by what he brought to the role.

-- He called her "Dana" several times, but "Tooms" marked the one and only time that Scully called Mulder "Fox." Interestingly, Skinner also called him "Fox" in this episode, but he didn't tell Skinner that he "even made my parents call me Mulder."

-- The Conversation In the Car scene raised the vague possibility that someday there might be more between Mulder and Scully than just a working relationship, but at the time, Morgan and Wong said they were opposed to any romance between the two. "We don't see them having a relationship beyond the professional one," Wong said.

-- The name on the door adjoining Tooms' cell was L. Robbie Maier. Rob Maier was the construction coordinator on The X-Files.

-- Oopsie! When Mulder first started his surveillance and watched Tooms drive away in his work van, the last shot of Mulder was reversed (the mole is always a dead giveaway).

-- The movie Mulder was watching in his apartment was the original version of The Fly (1958). The movie was directed by Kurt Neumann.

-- Why did Tooms waste time trying to frame Mulder for beating him up, when he could just have easily ate Mulder's liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti and gone on his merry hibernating way since Mulder would have been number five? (I guess you can do a lot of things to the stars, but you can't remove their livers! < g >)

-- Guest star Doug Hutchison was the one who suggested that he play the final scene under the escalator nude. Originally, he was supposed to be wearing his dog catcher's uniform. "I shed my inhibitions like my clothes in 'Tooms,'" Hutchison philosophized. "Sometimes one has to get naked to strip down to raw truth. If others don't like it or find it offensive, oh well -- you can't please all of the people some of the time, but if you try sometimes you get what you need -- or something like that."

-- "The character that Doug Hutchison played was a person who excreted bile," recalled Chris Carter, "and he decided he wanted to play that last scene stark naked. So I walked onto the stage and here’s this stark naked man covered in gooey yellow substance. And it was shocking because -- well, having a naked man walking around is always shocking."

-- "The thing I felt worst about was that David Duchovny was going to actually have to get into this elevator shaft with this naked, greasy, grimy, sweaty man and pretend to be afraid of him -- which was probably the easy part. David was a little nervous about being in this confined space with a naked man, but that made the scare all the more real -- certainly for David and for the audience in turn."

-- To create the excreted bile effect on Tooms' skin, Hutchison was covered with Karo Syrup and food coloring. "It was cold!" he recalled. "I kept sticking to the walls."

-- Despite his gruesome demise, Hutchison used frequent appearances at The X-Files conventions to relentlessly lobby for a return engagement. "I was aware of the Star Trek conventions," he noted, "but I had no concept of what they were really about and how many people actually showed up. My first X-Files convention was in San Diego. There were over 2,000 people -- I signed autographs for five and a half hours!" His insistence on greeting each autograph seeker personally resulted in the convention personnel finally giving up and leaving him to find his own way home.

-- "Tooms isn't dead," he told X-Files convention-goers. "He's a human toothpaste tube. You didn't see him die. You saw some blood, and that was it. I have visions of Tooms being eaten up in the escalator and coming out the other side, looking like an animated piece of spaghetti, and congealing and forming into his nest and rejuvenating himself."

-- The escalator where Tooms met his demise was actually in the City Square Mall in Vancouver.

-- Can you find a correlation between Eugene Victor Tooms and Mike Tyson? (No, Tooms liked livers, not ears!!) Only 10 weeks after his first fight in four years (which he won against Peter McNeeley), heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson signed to fight undefeated Buster Mathis, Jr., on November 4, 1995. However, on October 31, four days prior to the fight, Tyson had to withdraw because of a broken right thumb sustained while training. The Fox network was scheduled to carry the bout and had promoted it heavily, and with Tyson's withdrawal, the network was faced with a two-hour hole in their schedule. So what did they do? The network reached into its storage cabinet and offered up a "Tooms Night," airing "Squeeze" and "Tooms" back-to-back, much to the surprise and delight of X-Files fans.

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-- While looking over Doug Hutchison's filmography, you'd be hard pressed not to conclude that he was the spawn of Satan. He seems to gravitate toward roles in which he plays, if not flat out monsters, then monstrous men. But Hutchison is not evil ... he's just written that way. "I haven't necessarily chosen to play villains," he said, reflecting on his life of crime. "My villain phase -- Eugene Tooms, the Polaroid Man, and Percy -- paid the rent. I have a plethora of roles inside me -- not just bad guys."

-- But the bad guys were what Hutchison was best known for. He played sadistic silicate Elroy-EL on the short-lived Space: Above & Beyond, a psychopathic stalker known only as "The Polaroid Man" on Millennium, and a glowing street punk in the feature film Batman and Robin. In the film version of John Grisham's A Time to Kill, he was redneck rapist Pete Willard, and he played the bad guy again as prison guard Percy Wetmore in the film of Stephen King's The Green Mile. But he was probably best known for his performance as Eugene Victor Tooms in "Squeeze" and its sequel "Tooms."

-- "I've played lots of sympathetic characters that people haven't had the opportunity to see because they were incarnated on stage, non-aired TV pilots, or passing guests spots," Hutchison said. He pointed specifically toward an early episode of The Young Riders in which he played an idiot savant harmonica player. "I wouldn't say it's an Emmy-award winning performance or anything, but it's a far cry from villainous."

-- That's not to say that Hutchison is unhappy with his many dastardly roles. "If there's anything that attracted me to villains," he said, "it was the challenge of humanizing them." But Hutchison scoffed at the thought of being pigeon-holed as the perpetual villain. "Typecasting is for unimaginative casting directors and limited actors. My heroes include actors who've managed to break typecasting molds because of their dynamic range -- Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Jason-Leigh. These artists have transcended their 'character actor' roles and redefined 'the leading (wo)man.' I'm unafraid of typecasting because I believe, ultimately, in my versatility. I just need the right vehicle to prove I'm 'leading man' material."

-- Hutchison may someday be able to write that leading role for himself, as screenwriting counts among his many talents (a documentary Hutchison and his brother Eric made about their grandfather won second prize at a Seattle film festival). "My stuff ranges from supernatural love stories, cheesy horror, quirky romance, to mythological, symbolic, and gothic-esque tales," he explained. "I think more stories need to be told about love, survival, hope, and salvation. With all due respect to Quentin Tarantino, I'm unimpressed with the 'copycat' films he's inspired dripping with senseless greed, violence, and sex. It worked for Shakespeare, it worked in Pulp Fiction, but now, we're hungry for hope. At least I am. Otherwise, I'd rather watch porn, frankly. It's more stimulating, raw, and honest than a lot of the dreck Hollywood has pumped out over the last decade."

-- "I have turned down my share of crappy scripts that I thought degraded women and/or humanity at large," Hutchison said. "My taking a role depends on a number of things: the script, the director, the cast, whether or not the part turns me on, and how much food I have in my refrigerator -- and not necessarily in that order."

-- A number of the roles that Hutchison hasn't turned down came from writers/producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, who first worked with Hutchison in "Squeeze." "What appeals to me about working with Morgan and Wong?" Hutchison pondered. "They hire me. Seriously though, Morgan and Wong have been very, very good to me over the years. Not only did they insist I play Tooms on The X-Files when the director of 'Squeeze' Harry Longstreet didn't want to cast me, but then they wrote a sequel for me ["Tooms"], wrote a recurring role for me on Space: Above & Beyond, tracked me down to play Polaroid Man in the second-season opener of Millennium, and then went to bat for me at CBS to play a regular on their hoped-for series, Skip Chasers [which never got picked up]. I owe those guys my SAG card. Morgan and Wong are tops. When they believe in someone or something, they'll carry the torch. I can't sing their praises enough."

-- Playing all these villainous roles, Hutchison hoped that there might someday be an action figure in his future. His preference? "Tooms, of course. He'd streeeeeeeeeeeetch!"

-- Morgan and Wong had written six solid episodes of The X-Files during its first season (five of which were arguably some of the best of Season 1); and although Chris Carter had planned to write the second season premiere himself, after some discussion he asked Morgan and Wong to write the episode which became "Little Green Men." "The second season began with the X-Files shut down and Mulder and Scully separated and reassigned," Wong said. "Originally, Chris had planned to send Mulder to Moscow, but the idea didn't pan out. So he asked us to write the first episode of season two. It was a very nice gesture on Chris's part in boosting our confidence and telling us how much he appreciated us."

-- Once & Future Retreads: In addition to Doug Hutchison, Henry Beckman (Detective Frank Briggs) played the same role in "Squeeze" and was the Old Man in "Chinga." Timothy Webber (Detective Talbot) was Jess Harold in "Our Town" and Dr. Paul Farraday in "Quagmire." Jerry Wasserman (Dr. Plith) was Dr. John Grago in "Excelsius Dei." Frank C. Turner (Dr. Collins) was Dr. Del Hakkie in "Duane Barry." Pat Bermel (Frank Ranford) was The Therapist in "The Walk." Glynis Davies (Defense Counsel Nelson) was Ellen in "Irresistible" and Monica in "2Shy." Andre Daniels (Arlan Green) was Harry McNally in "Blood."

-- "Tooms" was the second highest rated episode of the first season. Only the season finale, "The Erlenmeyer Flask," garnered more viewers.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's pics.)

If you're interested, The X-Files Lexicon website has an exclusive recent interview with Doug Hutchison posted on the Lexicon website. It can be found here:

Doug Hutchison Interview at The X-Files Lexicon

Thanks Matt at the Lexicon.

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Tooms."

Polly