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Feature
The 20 Greatest X-Files Episodes
We count down Mulder and Scully’s coolest cases

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14. Musings Of A Cigerette Smoking Man

Musings Of A Cigerette Smoking Man

Episode: Season 4, Episode 7
Aired: November 17, 1996

A welcome trawl through the backstory of one of the series’ most enigmatic characters, even if we’re never quite sure — as usual — whether what we’re seeing is the truth or not. After all, the information about William B. Davis’ Cancer Man is dug up by squat troublemaker Frohike of the Lone Gunmen. Still, accurate or not, it’s a fascinating trip through some of America’s biggest conspiracy hotspots, as seen by someone involved with most of them, seen through the filter of X-Files history. So we “learn” that the CSM had a Communist father and was recruited from the military to assist in dark, bloody projects including the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. And via Glen Morgan’s script (directed by regular collaborator James Wong), we also get to dig under the skin of the man, with his frustrated attempts to establish himself as a mystery writer, only for his efforts to be turned down by publisher after publisher as simply outlandish. If only they knew… It’s a fascinating, funny peeling of a mysterious onion that also drops a few hints at other X-Files lore (we briefly meet a young Bill Mulder and there’s a welcome return for Jerry Hardin’s Deep Throat as the pair meet at an alien crash site and consider their different roles in the conspiracy cover-up).

X-Fact: Chris Owens, who plays the young Cancer Man, returned in Season 5 to play Spender, who (spoiler alert!) was the Cigarette Smoking Man’s son.

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Your Comments

1 No Bruce Campbell
:( More

Posted by cousinwalter on Thursday January 22, 2015, 14:33

2 Hard to make a complete list of faves
But a good choice! By the way, the competition does not work. Has a closing date of November 2013! WTF Empire! More

Posted by Andybee76 on Tuesday January 20, 2015, 13:26

3 Really?!
No 'Tooms'?! Sure, you gave its prequel 'Squeeze' top-spot (and rightly so), but its Eugene's second outing in which he gloriously dislocates - then elongates - an arm in an attempt to escape incarceration, licks his fingers during his pest-control community service, and reveals to us that he likes art *eyes turn yellow, murders his own shrink*. Simply superb. *EDIT* Oh yes, is the eponymous 'Piper Maru' the same Piper Maru seen in another Fox property; (the actually bloody good) 'AVP: Alien Vs Predator'? Is the black goo the same black goo seen in 'Prometheus'...? More

Posted by Litshttam on Tuesday January 20, 2015, 01:18

4
Chuffed to see Bad Blood on this list. Best thing about that episode is the way Mulder and Scully view each other; perceptions that are given to sarcy banter in Syzygy (Season 3 and featuring a very young Ryan Reynolds). Too many great episodes to choose from but, like my partner, i prefer the episodes that have more of an element of fear and intrigue than the alien/conspiracy episodes. More

Posted by bocfahey on Monday January 19, 2015, 22:37

5 Jose Chung, foos!
I hate to be one of those people commenting on what's missing ... but ... Jose Chung's From Outer Space is the greatest ep in the history of man. It's so intricate, you have to watch it more than once to get all the subtleties. But on face value, it's hysterical. Amazing performance from Charles Nelson Reilly. Worth it for Mulder's yep alone. But this is Darin Morgan's tour de force. It turns everything on its ear and an ep from which the seeds of great other eps like Bad Blood were sown. More

Posted by xpai on Thursday November 7, 2013, 18:50

6 X-CEPT
The funniest episode was, by far, Hollywood AD. The moment when Gary Shandling's Mulder says "Oh, I love you Scully!" to Duchovny's wife, is hysterical and super-meta! Also includes the first-ever TV use of the word "Bazinga"! More

Posted by Grimm on Friday October 25, 2013, 13:10

7
I fully expected to read this list and instantly want to come in and start ranting and raving about what was left out but its so bang on the money that I really don't have much to complain about. I would bemoan the lack of Humbug and Jose Chungs from Outer Space. The latter in particular. You may have already had a decent amount of Darin Morgan entries but these two were pure gold. More

Posted by Evil_Bob on Wednesday October 23, 2013, 13:22

8 X files fanatic!
Most of my faves are in there, with the exception of Oubliette, Syzygy and Quagmire - 3 I watch over and over. Thanks for the celebration feature Empire - love it! More

Posted by annie__hall on Wednesday October 23, 2013, 12:28

9 my list
In dire need of an update especially because my list only covers season 1-5 Season 1 Pilot Deep Throat Squeeze Ice Fallen Angel E.B.E. Darkness Falls Tooms The Erlenmeyer Flask Season 2 Little Green Men The Host Duane Barry Ascension Firewalker Død Kalm Humbug Anasazi Season 3 The Blessing Way Paper Clip D.P.O. Nisei 731 War of the Coprophages Piper Maru Apocrypha Jose Chung's From Outer Space Wetwired Talitha Cumi Season 4 Herrenvolk Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man Tunguska Terma Paper Hearts Tempus Fugit Max Season 5 Redux Redux II Unusual Suspects The Post-Modern Prometheus Kill Switch Bad Blood The Pine Bluff Variant Folie a Deux The End More

Posted by MattBecker on Monday October 21, 2013, 23:37

10 Some favorites missing
It's an ok list for including Bad Blood, Small Potatoes, Clyde Bruckman, Piper Maru, and Duane Barry but where is Paper Hearts, Redux II, Monday, Field Trip and Tunguska? More

Posted by mulscul on Monday October 21, 2013, 16:25

11 This list is an X File
Honestly, the most bizarre XF list I've ever seen. The whole list is null and void through its omission of 'Pusher' which is a firm fan favourite and showcases everything wonderful about the show; the talent and chemistry of the main actors, the story writing, the guest stars, the cinematography... Having said that, it is fantastic to see this show being honoured and hopefully glossing over the damage caused by IWTB. More

Posted by johugrix on Saturday October 19, 2013, 21:58

12
Good list all around. Would have liked to have seen "Humbug" somewhere though. That's easily my favorite episode. More

Posted by GomJabber11 on Saturday October 19, 2013, 16:11

13 Almost hits the mark.
The titles on this list pretty much equal my own. However, I could leave Die Hand Die Verletz and put either Arcadia, The Field Where I died, 4D, or Quagmire, all excellent episodes. I recently finished rewatching all 9 seasons and have found it far more enjoyable now than 20 years ago. Still my all time favourite tv show. I hope we can get movie No. 3 rolling, although the script would need to be far better than the 2008 film 'I Want To Believe'. More

Posted by angelzbabe on Saturday October 19, 2013, 01:08

14 Yes, Bad Blood!
I have watched that episode more than any episode of anything ever! Countless funny moments. Mulder singing Shaft. Luke Wilson's teeth. Mulder kicked the trash can. Absolute classic. The Lake Placid-esque episode was also a terrific stand alone one. But by and large, I can't argue with this list. More

Posted by tysmuse on Friday October 18, 2013, 21:07

15 Nostalgia
I've got all of the box sets and this feature has made up my mind to go back and rewatch them all! More

Posted by Hugh_Fran on Friday October 18, 2013, 19:42

16 Death by autoerotic asphyxiation
Just as Clyde Bruckman foresaw, this is indeed how Mulder died (or at least David Duchovny in Steven Soderbergh's 'Full Frontal'). More

Posted by davidtharwood.com on Friday October 18, 2013, 15:25

17 X-Cops
That episode was the one that introduced me to The X Files... great episode! More

Posted by TPM007 on Friday October 18, 2013, 14:39

18 You've missed the best!
One of the best episodes ever was Anasazi. The Field Where I Died was also amazing! More

Posted by paterk2 on Friday October 18, 2013, 14:22

19 You missed out by far the best episode!
Jose Chung's From Outer Space! Every X-Files fan I've spoken to say this is their favourite episode! More

Posted by Psycho Savager on Friday October 18, 2013, 14:13

20 Dreamland?
Some good choices there. A few of my favourites included by definitely think you missed a trick by not including the "Dreamland" 2 parter from season 6 - Michael McKean is excellent and hilarious in it and "Monday" from the same season. More

Posted by Scruffybobby on Friday October 18, 2013, 14:13

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