The X-Files: Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man   Rewatch 
May 16, 2020 7:08 PM - Season 4, Episode 7 - Subscribe

The Cigarette Smoking Man muses over the course of his life while listening to Mulder, Scully, and the Lone Gunmen speculate about his personal history.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total)

This is a good episode, but I also feel like it marks the last time the Mytharc was in any way compelling. It doesn't fully demystify CSM, but it demystifies him enough that the shady back-room stuff after this loses a lot of its dramatic appeal. (Though the show would successfully go back to that well for comedy with things like the "Dreamland" episodes.)
posted by tobascodagama at 11:41 AM on May 17, 2020

I have to agree with tobascodagama.

CSM was like what Tolkien wrote about Lord of the Rings. It was all about hidden vistas.
posted by Fukiyama at 3:22 PM on May 17, 2020

Regarding the "de-mystifying" aspect, I didn't find that this episode detracted from CSM's dramatic appeal. There have been plenty of signs thus far that he puts up a smarmy false front, that he is not nearly in control as he pretends to be, that he can't handle it when things don't go his way. I don't think our glimpse of him of a truly empty, hollow man took away from his mystique given that the mystique was already shown to be cracked with feet of clay. And remember, we also don't know for sure if what we saw re-enacted is true or not -- it may have been either CSM reminiscing or the Lone Gunman speculating.

When I first realized last night that this episode was the next in line, it was a let down, and I expected it to be tedious to get through -- Mulder and Scully are the show -- but I actually ended up finding it pretty watchable.

It's hilarious that the Lone Gunman switch to their "CSM-twenty-five countermeasure filter" and are so confident that nothing can cut through it, and meanwhile CSM just casually flips a switch marked "Countermeasure Filter" on his switchboard, and goes right on listening to them.

Also funny: his scunner against the Buffalo Bills. Given that William B. Davis is Canadian, I can't help but wonder if he's got it in for the Maple Leafs too.

And that rejection letter? Ouch.

The "life is like a box of chocolates" was part Forrest Gump parody, part Shakespearean soliloquy, which is a pretty fantastic mixture. CSM shapes history like Forrest Gump, not by naive happenstance, but by arrogant and malignant intent, and then finds his life empty of any real satisfaction or meaning.

And I feel CSM on his preference for peanut butter cups and English toffee over "undefinable whipped-mint crap".
posted by orange swan at 3:38 PM on May 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I've been an unabashed fanboi of this season (4, not 3 in my previous comment) ... and the next expisode is Tunguska!

CSM has shown himself to be a bastard, but also craven in the face of those stronger than he is.

The unreliable narrator effect is definitely in play, but I'm open to CSM being that honest with himself and his own internal evaluation is that he has done bad things but is not a bad person (delusions of "greater good").

I appreciate seeing some of CSM's background and motivation. That he's an ultra-patriot boomer may be even more relevant today than in the 90s. The "communism = Evil. EEEvvviiillll." is relevant; CSM is rational but has to work within a frame of information. He reacts to what he believes are facts in a rational and ruthless manner, for what he believes is the just thing to do (and the secrecy of his information gets twisty, and his rationality goes with it).

Despite the sympathy evoked from this episode, I'd argue, makes CSM if not an even greater monster at least a more tragic one because he's lost himself and might even recognize/ admit that in his weakest moments.

With all his power/ authority/ secret knowledge, this episode shows that he ultimately (developed the recognition that he) wants love, praise, recognition - which he irrevocably gave up when he accepted his first assignment. He gave away his own determinism and is a piece on a gameboard. That he might get "kinged" like in checkers, he remains merely an anonymous piece on the board for the other side to take down.

re: orange swan's observation that the writers like using cigarette smoking to mark out "bad" people, CSM starts after Oswald gets taken down as the patsy. Then in Act III, a brief attempt at kicking the habit by going on the patch*, coincidental with "we have no more enemies" (Gorbachev resigning).

I liked the casting of Chris Owens as young CSM, and later as Jeffrey Spender.

That CSM's father was a (falsely accused?) Communist (traitor) touches the sins of the father theme and informs Spender's evolving reaction and position (on CSM arguably being a traitor to humanity).

Also that CSM is a(n unsuccessful) scifi writer is a little meta funny since most of the writers in the room probably have lots of stories about rejected submissions.

Loved the gag that CSM is a (sports) cheat, too!

Not tracking how/ why CSM thinks/ states that he hasn't killed anybody or anything when both men know he's an assassin.

*Who the hell who has ever tried quitting would keep an opened pack of their brand of cigarettes and a filled zippo lighter with them when trying to quit on the patch? He never wanted to quit.
posted by porpoise at 5:48 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

That he's an ultra-patriot boomer

CSM is not a boomer. He never gets an assigned birthdate, but William B. Davis was born in 1938, which makes him a member of the Silent Generation. Boomers were born 1946-1964.

Mulder's first word being "JFK" was very on brand for him, but it would have been even more so if he'd learned it after JFK was assassinated.
posted by orange swan at 6:39 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

My bad. Yes you're right that they spawned the boom although CSM personally was a little on the late side?
posted by porpoise at 9:44 AM on May 18, 2020

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