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The X-Files

Season 2 Episode 20

Humbug

3
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 31, 1995 on FOX
8.8
out of 10
User Rating
368 votes
25

EPISODE REVIEWS
By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

EDIT
Mulder and Scully travel to Gibsonton, Florida, a town built and populated by circus and sideshow performers to investigate the death of Jerald Glazebrook, The Alligator Man. While searching for leads on the killer, the agents come across many bizarre characters including the local sheriff who was once known as Jim Jim, the Dog-Faced Boy.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • weird and funny episode

    9.0
    This X file episode was different in a good way when a murder in a small town brings Mulder and Scully investigate and find a town populated by circus freaks and weird performers that make this episode also very funny.Mulder believes that something called the Fiji mermaid is what's killing people in the town.However it turns out to be Leonard the undeveloped foetus of Lanny and can attach himself to him and come apart from him.The episode was left on a thinker when Leonard is seen attacking the conundrum but later he says he doesn't feel so good and he says maybe its something he ate which means somehow he probably ate it.moreless
  • Humbug

    10
    Humbug was a perfect and very entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was awesome, well written and was about Circus Folk. I was very entertained because there were elements of horror, camp, and seriousness. The guest cast featured along with the regular cast were all phenomenal. I loved how the episode played out and I really liked how fun and scary the episode actually was. The ending was excellent! I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Mulder gets lost in a maze full of dead ends--what a perfect metaphor for "The X-Files".

    9.5


    "Humbug" was flawlessly written and executed. The timing, on which comedy depends, was perfect. It was well-paced, haunting, exciting and hilarious. "The X-Files" stays just this side of absurd only because it adheres so strictly to the straight and narrow in Mulder and Scully. So long as they are straight faced about it all, we can suspend our disbelief in beastwomen and giant flukes. Their stoic and familiar figures against a background of the fantastic and the bizarre keep us anchored and intrigued. But in "Humbug", figure and ground are reversed. We like to think of Mulder as the "outsider", but against the backdrop of this strange locale, we see him instead as representative of our entire society.

    We expect to be repulsed and thrilled by sideshow freaks, but here we find them not only normal but downright banal. The "normal" people in this episode, Scully and Mulder, lose their moorings completely against this background. Scully even attempts to handcuff a professional escape artist. Mulder gets lost in a maze full of dead ends--what a perfect metaphor for "The X-Files". The intellectual Scully pays extra money for "proof" of an extreme possibility: and gets taken in, in the oldest sideshow scam of all. Clearly, these two are out of their element. But not out of character: Mulder, confronted with a belligerent and defensive dwarf retains his wit. "You'd be surprised at how many women find my size intriguingly alluring," the little man boasts. Deadpan, Mulder responds, "And you'd be surprised at how many men do, as well." The dwarf's dismayed reaction to this innuendo nearly killed me.

    There are many digs at David Duchovny's in this episode, such as the use of him as an example of how bland and boring the future will be after genetic engineering smoothes out all our distinctive wrinkles. Even Gillian Anderson comes in for some gentle teasing, in one scene where she shows off a little decolletage: Dana Scully is as embarrassed to be caught staring at Lennie's (Vincent Schiavelli) bulges as he is to be caught staring at hers.

    In our world, an unskilled, bizarrely deformed alcoholic who had lost his job would most likely wind up homeless on the streets. In Gibsonton, Lennie has a job, a community, a place, and people (like the sympathetic sheriff) to care for him. This is village life as it once was, among folk who care for their own. The town full of freaks shows up the profound alienation at the heart of American culture. Scully, in her ignorance, calls the performers "isolated" and speculates that they may have developed psychoses as a result of this "isolation". Far from it: rather, we find a warm- hearted small-town atmosphere where one's neighbors are one's friends and co-workers, possibly the only place on earth where one will not be judged by his or her appearance. Contrast this to the stark isolation in the "real" world of Fox Mulder, whose co-workers spy on him, whose society rejects his ideas, who lives alone in a building full of strangers. By the end of the story, my pity was reserved for Mulder and Scully, clueless outsiders in this sunny neighborhood.

    And I loved the ending. Morgan's set-up and payoff were superbly done and caught me absolutely flat- footed. It caught Mulder and Scully by surprise, too: their double take in the last scene, as they stare at one another in dawning, horrified realization, is priceless.

    The warmth and wit of "Humbug" makes this an outstanding episode.moreless
  • Comedy hour on X-Files

    8.5
    It took me awhile to figure out how I felt about this episode. One hand, it's easily the funniest, goofiest and darkest hour that the show has done to date. On the other hand, it's borderline parody, and it's difficult to figure out what the writers were going for here. I ended up rating it a bit higher, if only because I was laughing so much (whether it was intentional or not).



    Whether it was Mulder awkwardly telling the Sheriff that they were exhuming his potato or the way the short man kept chastising Mulder for not thinking of him as a normal human, or even the way both Scully and the man with the ingrown twin hid their bodies with their robes at the same time, awkward and embarrassed, the episode was filled with dozens of little moments that were more comedy than drama or horror. The premise is that there's a large number of "freaks," or strange people, that are being killed, which piques Mulder's curiosity.



    From here, we meet the Conundrum, a man tattooed with puzzle pieces who runs around shirtless and eats ANYthing, a man who has mastered (supposedly) the control of pain and a man with his twin growing out of his stomach like a tumor. All together, with Mulder and Scully's help, they try to solve the case of what's happening in the town.



    To say the episode is bizarre is an understatement; as I said before, I had no idea what to think about the episode. It was funny, but after so many serious episodes, how are you supposed to take this? I rated it higher if only because it did something that the show had never done before, and I laud it for that. Let's hope the show doesn't get into that habit too often now.moreless
  • Mulder & Scully investigate the murder of several former circus performers in a small town in Florida.

    2.0
    This one just flat out sucked! And I think it is about now the show is starting to enter the silly episodes. I'm sure there are alot more ahead as I venture through every season. I am a fan of the X-Files episodes that have to deal with serious matters and investigations. This one just wasn't for me. Although I think the little creature eating the circus people's insides was entertaining. What the hell was that thing? A human being, E.T. or some sort of animal? I don't know but I sure wouldn't want it crawling around in my body.moreless
Jim Rose

Jim Rose

Dr Blockhead

Guest Star

Wayne Grace

Wayne Grace

Sheriff James Hamilton

Guest Star

George Tipple

George Tipple

Hepcat Helm

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Goof: When Mulder and Scully are "exhuming" the Sheriff's potato, Mulder uses a shovel to dig up what sounds like hardened earth. However, the Sheriff buried the potato in a rather shallow hole and simply threw loose dirt over it.

    • The situation with Lanny and his brother is known as asymmetric conjoined twins or parasitic twinning. In some cases both twins survive, in other cases the lesser twin is absorbed.by the other (inclusion twinning). In real life, there are no recorded cases of a parasitic twin able to leave the host twin. Scully's reference to Chang and Eng Bunker is evidently meant to also allude to Lanny's condition. Another parallel is the fact that both Chang and Lanny drank heavily, which was a contributing factor in both their deaths. Chang's drinking is a matter of historical record, and Lanny's is alluded to by Scully's mention of cirrhosis of the liver contributing to his death.

    • Jerald Glazebrook's condition, "Ichthyosis", was described briefly but accurately by Mulder. Literally "fish skin", it is usually hereditary but in very rare instances can be acquired late in life.

    • Goof: When Scully said that she already performed the autopsy 42:59, the shadow of the boom-mic and operator are visible by the pink plastic flamingos.

    • Jim Rose is a real life "stunt" performer, who is is quite legendary for this famous video "The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow" which features many famous blockhead and geek acts (many of which are very disturbing to watch).

    • Goof: When the agents and Sheriff Hamilton are at the first murder scene you can see that his name tag says "B Hamilton," though later in the episode Scully says that his name is James.

  • QUOTES (19)

    • Scully: You must be one of those rare individuals whose nerve endings don't register pain.
      Dr Blockhead: That's right - just keep telling yourself that.

    • Lanny: Occasionally, I'd say, 'ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet my brother Leonard... Excuse him - he's shy'. Big laughs, I tell you. Big laughs.

    • Blockhead: Twenty-first century genetic engineering will not only eradicate the Siamese twins and the alligator-skinned people, but you're gonna be hard-pressed to find a slight overbite or a not-so-high cheekbone. You see, I've seen the future, and the future looks just like him!
      (Points to Mulder who is standing a distance away, posing like a Greek God statue... inadvertently)
      Blockhead: Imagine going through your whole life looking like that.

    • Sheriff: (To Scully) Now you're sure it was the twin you saw running around here? I mean maybe it was the Fiji Mermaid and he jumped back in the river and swum his way back to Fiji.
      (Mulder, walking quickly by)
      Mulder: Now you know how I feel.

    • Scully: You all right?
      (The Conundrum just lies there. Mulder crouches down.)
      Mulder: Have you seen a, uh... um...
      (Struggles for words, waves his hands futilely, and then shakes his head and runs off.)

    • Scully: That doesn't quite explain the potato.
      Sheriff: I got, uh, some warts on my hand.
      Mulder: ... That doesn't quite explain the potato.
      Sheriff: To get rid of warts, you rub a sliced potato on your hand and bury it under a full moon.
      (Scully nods)
      Sheriff: The investigation isn't going too well, is it?

    • Sheriff: Look how skinny I was back then.
      Scully: So that is you?
      Sheriff: Oh sure. I spent the first half of my life as Jim-Jim. Then one morning I noticed a bald spot on top of my head... and realized I wasn't only losing my hair, but my career as well. Eventually all the hair went. On top of my head, anyways. The rest of my body's still pretty hairy, which is... why I never go to the beach.

    • Mulder: You know, Scully, hypertrichosis does not connote lycanthropy.
      Scully: What are you implying?
      Mulder: We're being highly discriminatory here. Just because a man was once afflicted with excessive hairiness, we've no reason to suspect him of aberrant behavior.
      Scully: It's like assuming guilt based solely on skin color, isn't it?
      Mulder: Yeah.
      (Mulder sighs, shrugs, and keeps digging. Flashlight beam lands on the pair of agents and the Sheriff clears his throat)
      Sheriff: Ahem. May I ask what you're doing?
      Mulder: We're exhuming... (unfolds his handkerchief to reveal what he pulled out of the ground) Your potato.
      Sheriff: May I ask why?
      (Mulder and Scully exchange uncomfortable looks)
      Scully: (speaking very quickly) Sheriff, i-it's been documented that many serial killers possess a fascination with police work. Some of them even holding positions on their local force. Soo... surveillance of investigation team members is often utilized as a precautionary--
      Mulder: (apologetically) We found out you used to be a dog-faced boy.

    • Lanny: I believe these are your trailers. If they are not, then I am wrong.
      (Mulder hands him a tip)
      Lanny: Oh! That's most considerate!
      (Lanny shakes Mulder's hand and releases, having returned the money.)
      Lanny: Good night, Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite! (Starts to walk away but comes back) No. No that's not what I meant. I didn't mean to imply we had bedbugs. I meant to say 'Don't let the..'
      Mulder: The Fiji Mermaids bite.
      Lenny: Yes that's right, the Fiji Mermaids. That's exactly.. yes that's exactly right..
      Scully: Mulder, what is this Fiji Mermaid business?
      Mulder: Every murder investigation begins with a list of possible suspects. You should try not to be so exclusive, Scully.

    • Mulder: Tell me, have you done much circus work in your life?
      Mr. Nutt: And what makes you think I've ever spectated a circus, much less been enslaved by one?
      Mulder: I know that many of the citizens here were former circus hands and I just thought tha--
      Mr. Nutt: You thought that because I am a person of short stature, that the only career I could procure for myself would be one confined to the so-called Big-Top. (Mulder looks increasingly uncomfortable) You took one quick look at me and decided that you could deduce my entire life. Never would it have occurred to you that a person of my height could've possibly obtained a degree in hotel management.
      Mulder: I'm sorry, I meant no offense.
      Mr. Nutt: Well then why should I take offense? Just because it's human nature to make instantaneous judgments of others based solely on their physical appearances? Well, I've done the same to you. I've taken in your all-american features, your dour demeanor, your unimaginative necktie - (Mulder takes a long look down at his necktie) - and concluded that you work for the government. An FBI agent. (Mulder and Scully exchange looks. Scully raises her eyebrows at him.) But you see the tragedy here? I have mistakenly reduced you to a stereotype. A caricature. Instead of regarding you as a specific, unique individual.
      Mulder: But I am an FBI agent. (Flashes badge)
      Mr. Nutt: (Annoyed) Register here please.
      Mulder: (Addressing the next person he comes across) Tell me, have you done much circus work in your life?
      (Scully gives him a long, meaningful look)

    • Sheriff Hamilton: This is Hepcat Helm. He operates a carnival funhouse.
      Hepcat: Oh man, how many times have I told you not to call it that?! It's not some rinky-dink carnie ride! People go through it, they don't have FUN, they get the hell scared out of 'em! ... It's not a funhouse. It's a Tabernacle of Terror!
      Sheriff Hamilton: It's a funhouse.

    • (Funeral service is disrupted by a sideshow performer. All the guests run after him to restrain him. Only Mulder and Scully are left sitting in the chairs)
      Mulder: I can't wait for the wake.

    • Scully: For a while there, I was beginning to suspect this case involved something a bit more, um...
      Mulder: Freakish? You really shouldn't complain about banality, Scully, when your main suspect is the human blockhead.

    • Blockhead: How many people do you know that can get out of a straitjacket in under three minutes?
      Scully: Fortunately, none.

    • Lanny: Mister Nutt, the kindhearted manager here, convinced me that to make a living by publicly displaying my deformity lacked dignity... so now I carry other people's luggage.

    • Dr. Blockhead: Did you know you that through the protective Chinese practice of Tie Bu Shan you can train your testicles to draw up inside your abdomen?
      Mulder: Oh, I'm doing that as we speak.

    • Mr Nutt: Just because I'm not of so-called average height does not mean I must receive my thrills vicariously. Not all women are attracted to overly tall, lanky men such as yourself. You'd be surprised how many women find my size intriguingly alluring.
      Mulder: You'd be surprised how many men do as well.

    • Dr. Blockhead: I'm not saying anything 'till I talk to my lawyer.
      Scully: Who's your lawyer?
      Dr. Blockhead: I represent myself.

    • Mulder: I saw him this morning down by the river. He was eating a fish.
      Dr. Blockhead: He knows eating between-show snacks will ruin his appetite.
      Mulder: I could be mistaken. Maybe it was another bald-headed jigsaw puzzle tattooed naked guy I saw.
      Scully: Is this man also a body manipulator?
      Dr. Blockhead: No, in the classical sense, The Conundrum is a geek.
      Mulder: He eats live animals . . .
      Dr. Blockhead: He eats anything: live animals, dead animals, rocks, light bulbs, corkscrews, battery cables, cranberries . . .
      Scully: Human flesh?
      (Blockhead takes out a jar filled with live crickets and tips them over The Conundrum, who munches them down)
      Dr. Blockhead: Only The Conundrum can answer that question. But, he doesn't answer questions, he merely poses them. When an audience partakes in The Conundrum's human piranha act, they are left to ask themselves . . . why? But, where are my manners?
      (offers Scully the cricket-filled jar)
      Scully: Thank you.
      (she eats a cricket, smiles at Mulder then walks away. Mulder looks shocked)

  • NOTES (10)

    • Vincent Schiavelli receives the "and" credit.

    • Alex Diakun (The Curator) went on to appear in different roles as the Tarot reader in the Season 3 episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" and Dr. Fingers in Season 3 episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space."

    • Michael J. Anderson (who plays Mr. Nutt) had previously starred with David Duchovny on Twin Peaks.

    • Writer Darin Morgan remained on set during filming of this episode in order to make sure that his vision wouldn't get lost in the production process.

    • During the agents first meeting with Sheriff Hamilton in the restaurant, a small piece was deleted where they are served by a half man/half woman waiter played by Denis Simpson.

    • The trailer park is named Gulf Breeze, also a suburb in Florida known as a hotspot for UFO sightings.

    • The song Hepcat Helm is listening to is 'Frenzy' by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, featured on the X-Files album Songs in the Key of X.

    • When Scully visits the museum and ends up paying extra to see an empty box, that was, in-fact, a real P.T. Barnum exhibit. Barnum displayed a sign that proudly pointed visitors to "The Egress", which people assumed led to another of the many oddities in the museum, but which actually led to an exit. Once outside, visitors had to pay again to re-enter the museum.

    • Gibsonton, FL is a real place, populated largely by carnies, most famous as the home of Lobster Boy, who was murdered in November, 1992.

    • Gillian Anderson actually ate a live cricket during the filming of this episode, after a dare from performer Jim Rose. She was quite prepared to repeat the act on-camera, but the crew had already paid big money for a jar of edible chocolate crickets.

  • ALLUSIONS (3)

    • Scully (to Dr. Blockhead): you must be one of those rare individuals whose nerve endings don't respond to pain.

      She is referring to Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA) a rare inherited disorder that prevents people from feeling pain, heat, or cold.

    • Scully: Do you recall what Barnum used to say about suckers?

      Scully is referring to a saying attributed to showman Phineas Taylor Barnum (5 July 1810 – 7 April 1891): "There's a sucker born every minute" (the full version is, "There's a sucker born every minute...and two to take 'em"). However, biographers of Barnum and circus historians have been unable to verify that he actually originated the saying.

      It has been variously attributed to con-man Joseph ("Paper Collar" Joe) Bessimer, banker David Hannum, circus owner Adam Forepaugh (all business rivals of Barnum at one time or another) and Chicago gambler Michael Cassius McDonald. Barnum himself never denied having coined the phrase, realizing that it gave him a great deal of free publicity.

    • Scully: I was just reading about the fascinating life of Chang and Eng and wondering if their death was just as fascinating.

      Chang and Eng were the twin brothers whose condition and birthplace was the basis for the term Siamese twins. They were born in Siam and were joined at the sternum. The curator was essentially correct, but failed to mention that Chang was a heavy drinker and died of pneumonia. Eng effectively bled to death because the link between him and his dead twin was not torniqued, so his living blood was pumped by his heart into his dead twin which naturally was unable to recirculate it.

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