Theatre of the Mind ~ Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man
I suppose that it's only fitting that the XF Season (4) which brings me the episode that was, is, and forever shall remain my favorite of all time (Paper Hearts) should *also* bring me the episode that was, is, and still remains (despite lots of competition from Season 8 stinkers) my absolute least favorite episode of all time. I don't dislike "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" for the reason you might think (although I'll grant you that a lack of Mulder and/or Scully weighs heavily on my preferences). This episode was all about character development; and, in general, I like character development as much as the next guy. Had this episode told me everything I ever wanted to know but was afraid to ask about Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Krycek, Byers, Langley, Frohike, Mrs. Scully, Mrs. Mulder, Mr. Mulder, Samantha, or even that lisping vestige of bee husbandry, Marita, I might have actually enjoyed it.
But although I respect CSM as a good lurking villain and a man who can make smoking a cigarette the closest thing to sex they can show on TV, I could just never really get interested in looking at how this man came to shape most of the newsworthy events of the latter half of the 20th century. A sort-of Cigarette Smoking Forrest Gump if you will. Actually, I guess CSM is the Anti-Gump; he is the mover and shaker behind our history, but unlike Forrest who had greatness thrust upon him, CSM can never step out of the shadows to take credit.
The one and only thing I want to know about CSM is whether he is really Mulder's father or not. I don't know why that matters so much to me, it just does. In MOACSM we get clues, but like all the other details presented in this episode, we don't know whether this is fact, fiction, or CSM's fantasy.
So to me, this episode will always be CSM Gump; and therefore, there's only way that I can review it. These are the Musings of a TOTM-Writing Woman.
1. My name's Polly. People call me Polly.
2. Don't use my name! What the hell's wrong with you? Now I'll have to kill you.
3. "Then with the losers let it sympathize, for nothing can seem foul to those that win." Henry IV, Pt. 1, Act 5, Sc. 1.
4. Mama always says there's an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going. Where they've been. I've lusted after lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard, I could remember the first pair of shoes that I lusted after . . .
5. Those are CSM shoes! Eww, eww, eww!
6. TWC1: Okay, I'll admit it'll be tough, but the totally worthless commentary is out there; you just have to know where to look. Like right here: "No one would kill you, Frohike, you're just a little puppy-dog." Cute!
7. Too bad there's not a CSM-25 countermeasure filter to solve all CSM-related problems. Aw, it doesn't work anyway.
8. The Lone Gunmen publish The Magic Bullet Magazine, eh? It comes the same day as Celebrity Skin.
9. His father assassinated Leon Trotsky with an icepick? Did it go "pffffft" by any chance? PART I "Things really did go well in most of my other TOTMs."
10. There's all kinds of ways to write TOTMs. They can be long, short, forwards, backwards, numbered, not numbered. They can be songs, or poems, they can rhyme, they can not rhyme, they can have new endings, they can have new beginnings, they can cross over with other shows. There's funny, sad, angsty, heartwarming, memorable, good ones, bad ones . . . that's, that's about it.
11. "We're going to kick your rang-a-dang doo?" That's why there's a new Army today.
12. It's nice to see Agent Spender again.
13. Guess we know why CSM is not Roger Ebert's cohost. "I'd rather read the worst novel ever written than sit through the best movie ever made."
14. TWC2: Awww, look at little Fox and his mommy, Mrs. No-First-Name Mulder. Isn't he cute?
15. I guess it's only fitting that little conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder's first word would be "JFK", evoking thoughts of the biggest possible conspiracy of all time. I think "da-da" was pretty much out of the question. I bet he used to stick his fingers in lots of things too as a child.
16. Didn't the General get killed by the manitou in "Shapes"? Well, nobody saw that anyway.
17. Even as a youngster CSM was willfully participating in a campaign of misinformation.
18. "My only regret, sir, is I was too young to throw the switch myself." Somehow, I think that's what Fox might also say.
19. "Often the objectives of others conflict with our objectives." I bet this motto hung on the wall of the old Consortium headquarters.
20. I guess technically here the CSM is the Non-Cigarette Smoking Man.
21. TWC3: If an extraordinary man is truly one "who must identify, comprehend, and ultimately shoulder the responsibility for not only their own existence, but their country's, and the world's as well," you know who I'm thinking about. The General says it runs in the family. Eww, eww, eww.
22. I'm guessing that Mr. Hunt is just an alias for Non-CSM. Otherwise, if he *is* Mulder's father, that would mean that Mulder's real name was Fox Hunt. And the boy has enough problems, he wouldn't need that one too. (Maybe they could call him Kitsunegari.) Speaking of which, this is a true story: when I was younger, I had a friend named Mike Hunt. We used to ditch him at public events, just so we could page him over the public address system. "Has anyone seen Mike Hunt?" "Would Mike Hunt please return to the car." Tee-hee-hee. Like Mulder, I know what it's like to grow up in dullsville. All there was to do was drive, park, and page Mike Hunt.
23. "I'm going to the movies. I love the movies." Sneaky.
24. TWC4: A Big-Ass Flashlight! :::sigh:::!
25. Poor Oswald. No root beer. Must be fate. (Iced tea, not a choice.)
26. Sometime later - for no particular reason - somebody shot that nice young president when he was riding in his car.
27. So Non-CSM takes his first puff with a pack given him by "patsy" Lee Harvey Oswald. I find that somewhat comforting. He hasn't perfected it yet, though. Got a ways to go.
28. TWC5: Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby. DD played a cop in the movie "Ruby." This is easier than that Kevin Bacon game! PART II. "Just one more Elvis reference to make me think of Mulder."
29. So CSM is really just a frustrated novelist who wants to write spy thrillers.
30. In jokes galore! Jack Colquitt was a character on the failed Morgan & Wong effort, "Space: Above & Beyond." And "Take a Chance" was a catchphrase on that show. Sort of like, "treat yourself".
31. Since CSM was privy to so much, I'm surprised that J. Edgar wasn't decked out in drag during this meeting.
32. The FBI can insert people into existing film footage? It took Hollywood a long time to catch up.
33. Forced to assassinate even extraordinary men that you admire and respect. Perhaps CSM realized that someday all extraordinary men would meet their demise at the hands of someone else. "A life eviscerated by the actions of another."
34. "I work very hard to keep any President from knowing I even exist." Good news for Dubya.
35. TWC6: There's that cute pic again. How about a little woo-hoo?
36. It is a pretty bad day when you get home from an assassination only to get a nasty rejection letter from your publisher. Now CSM knows how Mulder felt in that boxcar in New Mexico. "Burn it."
37. *Now* I know why this seems so familiar! I used this text in my last letter to 1013: "In addition, I felt the plot of Surekill to be preposterous, the characters unbelievable, the ending lame, and the writing, frankly, crap." Sometimes I guess there just aren't enough rocks.
38. TWC7: I can see why CSM likes this photo. Little Fox is a cutie-patootie! Do you think he stole this pic from Bill or did Mrs. No-First-Name Mulder give one to everyone in the Corsortium?
39. A man who can quote Aeschylus from memory but wants to write like Tom Clancy. Go figure.
40. Tonight's education moment: Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) was the first of the three great Greek tragedians. He wrote perhaps 90 plays, of which seven survive intact. Often credited with inventing tragedy, he added an actor to what had been a dialogue, thus increasing its possibilities. Among his best-known plays are The Seven against Thebes and Prometheus Bound. Don't say you never learned nothin'. PART III. "Put on your yarmulke, here comes Hannukah" (or maybe Mulder isn't Jewish after all)
41. Or maybe CSMs dalliance with Mrs. No First Name Mulder was just like his Trust No One Lighter: all spark and no flame.
42. I'm thinking the patch made CSM a particularly nasty man during this period. Anita Hill, Rodney King, Bosnia-Herzegovina, fixing the Olympics. It certainly explains the Buffalo Bills. (I hope he likes the Ravens!)
43. But he could care less about the Oscars? I believe it. I think he was fixing the Emmys. How else to explain no award for DD?
44. I think this is our best hint about Mulder's parentage. At least if bad taste in neckties is any indication.
45. And they didn't get him anything for Christmas. No wonder CSM is so bitter. And no wonder some nights he longed for a second chance.
46. TWC8: Typing!Mulder! I can just imagine those fast fingers! Hoo-boy!
47. It's good to see Deep Throat again. Especially when he's not dead.
48. Deep Throat's first name is "Ronald"?
49. "And yet once again, tonight, the course of human history will be set by two unknown men . . . standing in the shadows." Just Ronald and C.G.B.
50. "Bill Mulder's project"? Do they mean the development of the vaccine here? Was the whole thing Bill Mulder's project? I thought this was supposed to clear things up!
51. Security Council Resolution 1013 requires the execution of any aliens found on earth. Chris Carter Resolution 1013 requires the execution of any hint of MSR on the XF.
52. "I'm the liar. You're the killer." Well, this certainly necessitates going back to all those Season 1 episodes and reexamining everything Deep Throat had to say.
53. If I were Deep Throat, I'd have checked that quarter a little more carefully. Trust no one, or Stupid is as stupid does. PART IV. "The Love Connection"
54. If you pause your VCR to look at Scully's senior thesis, "A New Interpretation of Einstein's Twin Paradox," you will find that it contains references to MJ-12. This could explain why she was assigned to Mulder, though I think it was as a result of CSM's desire to be host of the Love Connection.
55. Did everybody remember that CSM was there skulking around in the Pilot? I did!
56. TWC9: Gosh she was young then, wasn't she? Was it fate? Destiny? I happen to believe you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you.
57. TWC10: And, of course, the Holy Flaming Cow moment! "Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted!" Gee, this reminds me of Haven too! Now I'm getting all verklempt!
58. MSRM: From that day on, they was always together. Fox and Dana was like peas and carrots. I'm not a smart woman, but I know what love is. (Even through an illegal wiretapping device, without seeing them, just from their words, you can just *feel* the chemistry. Scully and Doggett, please pay attention here: this is what is known as CHEMISTRY. You don't have it. You won't ever have it. We don't want you to have it. Get over it.)
59. *That* is the smile of a proud papa. Eww, eww, eww! (Or maybe of a proud Love Connection host.)
60. CSM has lived in the same apartment for more than 20 years? How come no one can ever find him?
61. Who knew that we could have avoided all this evil from "the most dangerous man alive" just by getting one of CSM's stories published. One story accepted and he's ready to resign. (And a positively giddy CSM: Eww, eww, eww!)
62. The title of the magazine that CSM finally gets published in, Roman A Clef, is a French term referring to a novel in which the knowing reader is expected to identify, within the light disguise of fiction, actual people or events.
63. Quitting his job, quitting the smokes. Maybe that second chance he wanted? If he goes to Mulder and wants to "have a catch," I'm going to puke!
64. Check out those magazine articles! "Where in the Hell is Darin Morgan?" I've asked myself that same question a thousand times.
65. After spending his whole life rewriting history, CSM learns what it's like to have his ending rewritten.
66. Back on the smokes, tears up the resignation, and delivers a "life is like a box of chocolates" monologue. I think Season 8 is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
67. We find out what kind of person not in their right mind *would* buy the Roman A Clef magazine: Frohike.
68. So the last line of Cancer Man's first novel becomes the last line of this episode. It's enough for CSM to know that he has the power and Frohike will never know how close he came to buying the farm from an unknown man standing in the shadows. There seem to be no second chances for CSM, but he grants one to Frohike. "I can kill you whenever I please . . . but not today."
69. Did CSM make history, or was it history that made CSM? Is he really Mulder's father, or did he adopt Bill Mulder's family as part of his life that might have been? If CSM appeared in 1940, how was he already working with Bill Mulder in the State Department in 1953 as we learned in "Apocrypha"? And how was he a Gestapo officer in Poland during World War II as we learned in "The Field Where I Died"? (You know, if you 1013 guys can't remember the details of your episodes, you can call me.) And the biggest question of all-what did Scully have to do for Frohike to get that big box of information that she had in "One Son"?
70. I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time. Even though this is my least favorite episode, I miss you, X-Files, the way you were. I'm patiently waiting for Mulder's return, and I'll stick around cause maybe that's my destiny. If there's anything you need, I won't be far away.
71. I finished! Yippee! I could have used just one line from Gump to sum up this episode: "s*** happens!", but I didn't! "What's the matter? Don't you believe in miracles?"
And that's all I have to say about that. Apologies to all concerned,