December 3, 2016
The X-Files 4.7, Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man: Sympathy for the Devil
Summary: A title card quotes to us from Henry IV, Part 1: “For nothing can seem foul to those that win.” CSM arrives at an abandoned warehouse, lighting up with a lighter that says “trust no one.” He opens his briefcase and uses the technology inside to eavesdrop on Mulder, Scully, and the Lone Gunmen. The Gunmen are wary about being overheard, and Frohike refuses to say anything else until they put on a filter that blocks surveillance. Too bad CSM has tech to cut through that filter, and he starts assembling a rifle as Frohike reveals that the Gunmen have uncovered secrets from CSM’s background.
Frohike continues that CSM came on the scene just as Leon Trotsky was assassinated. His father was a Communist activist who spied for the Nazis during the Nazi-Soviet pact. He was executed under 1917’s Espionage Act. His mother also died (of lung cancer) when CSM was young, so he became a ward of the state. He was a loner who disappeared for a while, then reappeared a year and a half after the Bay of Pigs.
Part I: “Things really did go well in Dealey Plaza.” It’s October 30th, 1962, at Ft. Bragg’s Center for Special Warfare in North Carolina. Soldiers do their daily exercises, chanting about going after Khrushchev and Castro. Later, one soldier reads The Manchurian Candidate, though one of his fellow soldiers thinks he should just go see the movie. The reader (okay, it’s CSM, let’s drop the mystery) says he’d rather read the worst novel ever written than sit through the best movie ever made.
CSM, who happens to be a captain, is summoned to see General Francis. His buddy reports that his one-year-old just said his first word: “JFK.” (That’s not a word, but okay.) He shows CSM a picture of his wife and son. P.S. The buddy is Bill Mulder. In General Francis’ office, CSM is questioned about activities he may have participated in, such as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, training Cuban nationals during the Bay of Pigs, or the assassination of Rafael Trujillo. The questioner notes that CSM’s father was a known spy. CSM says he just wishes he’d been able to execute his father himself.
General Francis assures CSM that they know what it’s like to be scrutinized for someone else’s actions. He offers CSM a cigarette, but CSM declines: “I never touch ’em.” OKAY, WE GET IT. General Francis says that sometimes our objectives don’t match up with the objectives of others who want liberty and justice. “Viva la libertad,” says another man in the office. General Francis continues that a lot of powerful people aren’t qualified to lead others; some of them get caught up in bureaucracy. They should be looking to “another form of government.” CSM’s father did, and General Francis considers that extraordinary. He thinks that runs in the family.
Communism is evil, so CSM’s father deserved to be executed, but it’s also what brings CSM there today. A man comes out of the shadows to tell CSM that he’s going to be presented with an extremely classified task. If he takes it, he’ll be let out of the Army. He’s going to be asked to kill an American man who used to command a Navy boat. The country was just almost destroyed by nuclear war, which never would have been a possibility if this individual didn’t provide air support during the Bay of Pigs. A patsy has been found and will be set up while CSM does the dirty work.
For slower members of the audience, a chyron informs us that CSM is now in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. He meets up with Lee Harvey Oswald, advising him not to smoke. CSM, using the name Mr. Hunt, is posing as someone who supports Lee’s political beliefs (and also a movie lover). He needs Lee to hide some curtain rods in the book depository; once they’ve been retrieved by a third party, Lee will be paid and can head to Cuba.
Lee holds up his end of the bargain while CSM goes to an overflow unit, posing as a worker with the city’s Department of Public Works. When JFK’s motorcade approaches, Lee’s co-workers wonder if he wants to come see it with them. Lee’s at a vending machine, picking out a soda, while CSM assembles a gun. He gets a signal from a man with an umbrella and fulfills his task, assassinating the president.
Lee quickly realizes that he’s about to be framed for the crime. He grabs a gun of his own and heads off to find CSM, but a police officer finds him first. Lee asks to see the officer’s credentials, suspicious that he’s with “them.” The officer gets out of his car to talk to Lee, who shoots him and runs off. He then goes to the movie theater, which is showing War is Hell. He fights the officers but is outnumbered and subdued. He yells that he’s “not the one” and complains about police brutality. CSM sits calmly nearby, lighting up a cigarette.
Part II: “Just down the road aways from Graceland.” CSM types something while Martin Luther King, Jr. gives a speech. “I can kill you whenever I please,” CSM murmurs to himself. “But not today.” He’s writing a story, and this is the end. He’s just finished Take a Chance, a Jack Colquitt Adventure, writing under the pen name Raul Bloodworth. He pauses as King says that some feel “Communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real.” CSM doesn’t like this.
He meets with J. Edgar Hoover and two other men, who are worried about King’s supporters. CSM likes and respects King, but he’s talking like a Maoist now. If African-Americans listen to King and refuse to fight in Vietnam, American will lose and “the first domino will have fallen.” CSM mocks Hoover’s letter trying to convince King to kill himself; it only let him know that he’s being watched.
One of the men suggests that they blackmail King with a faked film of him having an affair with a white woman, but CSM says they need a “more intense” idea. A general named Fryatt suggests just killing King and his supporters. CSM notes that a lot of supporters think they’re still fighting the Civil War. If they find a white patsy, this becomes an issue of race, “another patsy.” CSM has too much respect for King to let anyone else assassinate him.
On April 4th, 1968, CSM goes to Memphis and smokes while King gives his last speech. He looks at the picture of Teena and Mulder that Bill showed him back in the Army. Then he meets with James Earl Ray in a rooming house and gives him some money to go away for a while (he suggests that Ray see a movie). As soon as Ray’s gone, “Raul” gets his gun and goes to the Lorraine Motel to kill King.
As the news goes out across the country, CSM reads a rejection letter from a publisher who’s uninterested in Take a Chance. The characters are unbelievable and the ending is dumb. He should just burn it. CSM puts the picture of Teena and Mulder in a drawer as Robert Kennedy quotes Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” CSM recites along with him (while probably planning his assassination next).
Part III: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” It’s Christmas Eve 1991, and CSM is meeting with a few fellow CIA agents to wrap up some business before the holidays. They decide to let “the Anita Hill thing” go, and are pleased that Rodney King’s trial has been moved to Simi Valley, as CSM instructed. CSM and his nicotine patch ignore a call from Saddam Hussein so the conversation can continue.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is working on separating from Yugoslavia, but CSM knows America doesn’t care. Personally, he also doesn’t care about the upcoming Oscar nominations. What he does care about is making sure the Bills never win a Super Bowl. “Buffalo wants it bad,” an agent notes. “So did the Soviets in ’80,” CSM replies. The agent is shocked that CSM rigged the famous hockey game. “Don’t you believe in miracles?” CSM asks. Another agent explains that they drugged Russia’s goalie with Novocain via a pat on the back.
CSM starts to leave, but an agent thinks they should chat about “that spooky kid” working on the X-files. He might be trouble. CSM says he’ll keep an eye on him. Moments later, he learns that Gorbachev has resigned, which means the U.S. has no more enemies. CSM hands out Christmas presents to the agents, who invite him to join them and their families for the holidays. CSM says he’s going to see family of his own. He leaves, and the agents open their presents, seeing that CSM got them all the same tie.
CSM listens to Christmas music and works on his next Jack Colquitt story, which is about Colquitt being alone in his apartment on Christmas. Art imitates life! Sometimes Colquitt wants a second chance. Well, maybe Colquitt should take a writing class or something. Deep Throat calls to let CSM know that they’ve just received a surprise Christmas present.
CSM heads to Dogway, West Virginia, where an alien spacecraft has just been captured. CSM thinks they can get away with the kind of story they used to explain Roswell, since it had everyone looking in the wrong direction. Deep Throat disagrees – even with the Russians in disarray, the KGB will be on their backs, as will other countries. They probably have an operative advancing on them as they speak.
Deep Throat and CSM look in on their new alien buddy as CSM wonders how many historic events they’ve witnessed together. “How often did we make or change history? And our names can never grace any pages of record. No monument will ever bear our image, and yet once again tonight, the course of human history will be set by two unknown men standing in the shadows.”
An alien could advance Bill’s work, so CSM knows they need to kill it. Deep Throat reminds him that Security Council Resolution 10.13 requires them to kill any alien in their custody. He wants CSM to do it: “I’m the liar. You’re the killer.” CSM notes that Deep Throat’s lies have killed more people than CSM has: “I’ve never killed anybody.” He wants to keep up that streak. Deep Throat says that maybe CSM’s the liar after all.
Deep Threat knows that the world could be destroyed if they don’t kill their “new enemy.” The men decide to flip a coin to determine who gets the job. Deep Throat loses the toss, so he has the job of ridding the U.S. of its latest threat to democracy and peace and whatnot. He puts on a gas mask and enters the alien’s chamber as CSM takes off his nicotine patch and lights up a Morley.
Part IV: “The X-Files.” Frohike tells Mulder and Scully that this is where they enter the story. CSM attends Scully’s interview at FBI headquarters in March of 1992, then uses his briefcase surveillance device to listen in on Mulder and Scully’s first meeting. I sincerely hope that, later in the series, he has to listen to them make out.
In the present, CSM trains a rifle on the door of the Lone Gunmen’s lair as Frohike quotes Thoreau to the agents: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” CSM hasn’t had a quiet life, but it’s been pretty desperate. Frohike thinks he’s “the most dangerous man alive.” He thinks his actions are necessary, and he can never escape himself.
“Raul” has submitted another story to Pivotal Publishing, and this time it’s received interest. Second Chance involves alien assassinations, and a publisher wants to serialize it. This could lead to a huge career for “Raul.” However, he’ll have to give up some control. The story will be published in Roman a Clef on November 12th. CSM types up a letter of resignation and throws out his Morleys, ready to start a new life.
On November 12th, CSM picks up the new issue of Roman a Clef, which looks more like Playboy than a classy literary publication. He’s stunned to see that someone changed the ending of his story. After some heat from the news vendor, CSM buys the magazine anyway, along with a pack of Morleys.
He smokes at a bus stop, waxing poetic to a homeless man who’s just found a box of candy: “Life is like a box of chocolates – a cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for.” You can’t return it because all you’ll get back is more candy. Sometimes you find something good, but the good ones don’t last. You end up with broken, crappy candy, “and if you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.” CSM tears up his resignation letter and heads to work as the homeless man picks up his magazine.
In the present, Frohike’s still looking for proof that everything he’s determined about CSM’s past is true. As he leaves the Lone Gunmen’s lair, CSM takes aim, saying, “I can kill you whenever I please.” He takes his finger off the trigger and lets Frohike go. “But not today.”
Thoughts: The younger version of CSM is played by Chris Owens, who later plays Jeffrey Spender.
“Mom, I got a role on The X-Files!” “That’s great! Who are you playing?” “Lee Harvey Oswald. …Hello? Mom?”
So are we supposed to feel bad for CSM, since he didn’t become a famous writer and he was alone his whole life? HE MURDERED PEOPLE.