The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 7

Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Nov 17, 1996 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
339 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Frohike pieces together and recites to Mulder and Scully what could be the possible life story of the Cigarette Smoking Man; from a young captain in the US Army recruited to assassinate President Kennedy, to becoming the mysterious man in the shadows at the height of a global conspiracy. What measures will the CSM take to ensure that he remains a mystery forever?moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • On my free time I like to smoke..... and write.

    Some characters don't need explanations, many people like them for all that they're lacking, the less we know the better. So giving some information about the guy that everybody loves to wonder about is very risky. I think they were wise in not giving us a long history of the man, we didn't need to see him from birth to the present. With what we did get about his life I feel it was handled well, it was all interesting, revealing but there's still so much to unpack. The only thing that bug me a little bit was how he was recruited for the JFK plot. He seemed like a normal guy during his army service and I thought it would have taken something great to turn him over but he has one sit down with some top brass and thats it, that's what sets him off on the life he ends up living.

    Plot aside it was also a fascinating episode to watch. Some portions were in black and white, it's divided into chapters which goes hand in hand with the book he's writing, its structure is unique and keeps you wondering about where in the timeline were experiencing.

    Its a hard episode to score, I somehow feel like I could have done without the back story but what we got was well made and fascinating. He's just a lonely man, with all his might he still isn't much bigger or better than you or me. Like it was shown in the magazine he picked up, he's not the only one who can change the outcome.moreless
  • Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man

    Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man was a perfect episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was well written and it was awesome to learn more about the Cigarette Smoking Man. There was definitely a lot of character development along with action, drama and intrigue. The Cigarette Smoking Man has a crazy past and he along with a few others shaped the destiny of The United States. I liked how he tried to publish his story as to live on in some way. Every thing played out perfectly. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • "I'm the liar; you're the killer." --Deep Throat to the Smoking Man

    It was only a matter of time until a series based on government conspiracies and cover-ups eventually got around to the Grandest Conspiracy of Them All, the JFK assassination. "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man", by Glen Morgan, finally addresses this mother of all intrigues by showing us the life of Mulder's nemesis, the title character played by William B. Davis.

    The series has dropped hints about his character over the years--his lack of wife or family, his addiction to Morley's cigarettes. We now learn something--a very little something--of the man behind the steel blue eyes. From a case file narrated by Frohike of the Lone Gunmen to an unseen Mulder and Scully, we learn that the unnamed Smoking Man "appeared" in Louisiana in 1940 and progressed through a series of orphanages to Army service, ending up as bunkmate to Bill Mulder when Fox Mulder was one year old. The man we later call the Smoking Man is at this point the Non-Smoking Man, and is recruited to assassinate Kennedy in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He does so, and takes his first puff on a cigarette given him by the doomed Lee Harvey Oswald. The Smoking Man goes on to become the Machiavelli of this century, involved in every plot from murder of public figures to alien coverups to rigging the Olympics. In a lovely bit of irony, he hides his clandestine organization in the heart of the FBI. More to the point, in a flashback to the pilot episode we see that the Smoking Man has been involved in The X-Files since day one; the Cancerman puffs away in the office corner where Scully is being assigned to work with Fox Mulder.

    The Cigarette-Smoking Man is not who he thinks he is. He is addressed by his stooge Lee Oswald as "Mr. Hunt", and like the E. Howard Hunt of Watergate notoriety, we learn that the Smoking Man's secret desire is to become a published writer of spy thrillers a la John Le Carre. But although he would rather read a bad novel than watch a good movie, he finds himself watching World War II movies in reruns. He can quote Aeschylus from memory, yet his ambition is to write like Tom Clancy. His own life--in which he assassinates even men he admires, like Martin Luther King, Jr.--turns him into the anti-Forrest Gump, a man present at most of the turning points of recent history, the moving force behind the scenes who never steps out of the shadows to be acknowledged. As befits a rational man in these post-Freudian days, he is ironically aware that his life resembles the melodramatic contrivances of spy fiction. Yet the Smoking Man's real life falls short of both James Bond and Ian Fleming, and he discovers too late that the life he has created has betrayed him. After a lifetime of rewriting history with a bullet, he learns what it is like to have his own ending rewritten, "to be eviscerated by the actions of another".

    I must applaud William B. Davis for a fine piece of work. He was able to go from utter frigidity, as in the scenes of the EBE execution, to bubbling naivete in a phone call to an editor. It's hard to out-deadpan David Duchovny, but what other actor could have delivered the "box of chocolates" speech straight-faced? He handled both of the tools of his trade--the scope mounted rifle of the assassin and the typewriter of the novelist--with practiced ease and skill. And his look of weariness and despair at the end, as he decides not to kill Frohike, revealed the Smoking Man's hopelessness and disappointment in life without adding a word to the script. Although there can be no "second chances" for him, he grants one, albeit unknown, to someone else.

    It was wonderful to see Deep Throat again, and the scenes with him and the Cigarette-Smoking Man together were pure gold. Comrades in conspiracy, their conversation was marked by bitter undercurrents of distrust and pessimism appropriate for two men who have manipulated and lied until it is second nature. I was frankly surprised that Deep Throat trusted the Cigarette-Smoking Man enough to let him toss his own coin for the task of executing the E.B.E.--I'd have checked to make sure it wasn't a double headed coin. Jerry Hardin gave Deep Throat just the right look of revulsion as he entered the chamber to kill the alien. Morgan Weisser is as outstanding as I expected him to be, as the edgy, wary Oswald who realizes, too late, his role in this carefully scripted assassination. This is a difficult role to play, as so many movies and TV shows have shown us so many different versions of Oswald. Achieving a new or original interpretation is tough, but Weisser nailed it from the nervous tics and jaw clenches right down to the slight Texas accent.

    Frohike will never know how close he came to annihilation, and the Smoking Man cannot tell him. I must applaud Morgan for an excellent character study, which shows us the Smoking Man's inward journey from a frustrated outsider to a cynical insider, a man who, morally ambiguous but potentially redeemable at the outset, became by one decision after another the monster we see sighting down a gun barrel in the first act. No one is born evil, but becomes so by his own decisions. Morgan avoids preachiness by lightening the mood; he spoofs his own script when we go from a smoke-filled meeting where the Cigarette-Smoking Man plots the death of Martin Luther King to a smoke-filled meeting where he decrees that the Bills will never win a Super Bowl "while he lives".

    However, by now, we should know the Smoking Man's name. How could Frohike get all this information about the Smoking Man and not have his name? Of course he knows it, and that means Mulder and Scully know it. Byers knows it. Langly knows it. Probably Skinner knows it. Why can't we know it?

    Much has been made of the chronological difficulties set up in this episode, and they were both important and disturbing. Having established in "Apocrypha" that the Smoking Man in 1953 was in his twenties or early thirties, and already working with Bill Mulder in the State Department, it is hard to reconcile Frohike's statement in "Musings" that the Smoking Man was born around 1940. It is even more difficult to reconcile Mulder's statements in "The Field Where I Died" that the Smoking Man was a Gestapo officer in Poland during the war. This is not the first time irreconcilable details have messed up the story. One can dismiss this sort of thing as "nit-picking", but this series heavily depends on realistic details to make Mulder and Scully credible against the background of the fantastic and bizarre that they must work with.

    The mood was uneven and the chronology confusing, but the character study and the acting were excellent. Of course we don't really learn much about the Smoking Man, but at this late date who thought we would?moreless
  • CSM's background

    So the CSM's greatest desire in life besides being a terrible man is to be a recognized author?

    I have to say that the whole idea of having the CSM being involved in some of the most disturbing moments in the history of the United Stated was very original. His background, sad, lonely and tortured, made him the person that he is, however, there was a little pride, a little desire deep inside his heart that made him want to succeed and be acknowledged. But the result wasn't the one he expected.

    In the end, he goes back to be the person that he can be. Someone who wants to be powerful by inspiring fear and terror.moreless
  • We see the past of the Cancer Man

    For four seasons, we've been lead through an elaborate plot that has had this mysterious "cancer man," or Cigarette Smoking Man, at the center of every plan to discredit or destroy Mulder's investigations into alien life. However, for the first time here, his past becomes a bit less hazy and instead of seeing some supervillain who wants Mulder destroyed, we see a sad and lonely man who joined the military at a young age and has been forced to do all sorts of dirty deeds as a result. It's strange to see a man who was behind the JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations really just be a guy who wants to write serial novels, but it really helps us to understand him a bit better and see him as less of a bad guy and more of a good guy being forced to do bad things.

    The episode could've done without the whole "is the CSG guy going to kill one of Mulder's friends or not?" It really ruined the episode to lead us to believe something like that will happen and then just pull the rug out from under us. It's a cheap trick, but luckily, the rest of the episode was good.

    I wasn't at all bothered either by the lack of Mulder or Scully. The power of William B. Davis and the actors who played his younger self made the episode interesting enough without actually needing the main cast. And it also leads us into what is sure to be a mythology based set of episodes (yes, I looked a bit forward in the episode guide..) Definitely a great insight into a mysterious character.moreless
Paul Jarrett

Paul Jarrett

James Earl Ray

Guest Star

Dan Zukovic

Dan Zukovic


Guest Star

Peter Hanlon

Peter Hanlon


Guest Star

William B. Davis

William B. Davis

Cigarette Smoking Man

Recurring Role

Chris Owens

Chris Owens

Young Cigarette Smoking Man

Recurring Role

Tom Braidwood

Tom Braidwood


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Mulder's first word was JFK.

    • The scene where the young CSM is first recruited to assassinate JFK is reminiscent of the scene in which Martin Sheen is given his mission to assassinate Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now (1979). The scene may also reference The Day of the Jackal, since CSM and the Jackal both count Rafael Trujillo and Patrice Lumumba among their successful past missions.

    • Factual Error: CSM pulls out stationery for Endeavor International Press that lists an address as 389 La Cienega Blvd., Pasadena. La Cienega Blvd. runs through a large portion of Los Angeles, but it goes nowhere near Pasadena.

    • Perhaps a moot point, but in the sequence involving the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald denies having killed Kennedy as the police drag him out of the theater. While he may have done this, it should be noted that Oswald was initially arrested for the murder of Officer J.D. Tippet; he was only accused of Kennedy's murder later on.

    • This episode contradicts the season 3 episode 'Apocrypha' where young CSM was seen in the 1950's with Bill Mulder as already a shadowy agent and smoking. This episode has CSM still a young man and not part of the Syndicate in 1963, and does not smoke yet.

    • In other episodes the name of The Lone Gunmen's newsletter is "The Lone Gunman", but in the shots of their office door it has a sign saying 'The Lone Gunmen. Publishers of "The Magic Bullet" newsletter'.

  • QUOTES (11)

    • William Mulder: My one year old just said his first word.
      Smoking Man: What was the word?
      William Mulder: JFK.
      Smoking Man: Catch you later, Mulder.

    • Lyndon: I'm working on next month's Oscar nominations. Any preference?
      CSM: I couldn't care less. What I don't want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I'm alive, that doesn't happen.
      Jones: That'll be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.
      CSM: So did the Soviets in '80.

    • Deep Throat: The craft matches the dimensions of the vehicle spotted over Hanoi when I was in Vietnam with the company that the Marines couldn't shoot down
      CSM: Occupant?
      Deep Throat: Critical.
      CSM: Timing couldn't be worse. The Roswell story we concocted had them all looking in the wrong direction

    • Man in the Dark: Who will you order to do it?
      Young CSM: I'll do it myself, I've got to much respect for the man.

    • Young CSM: Is there a cover story?
      Man With Dark Glasses: Tell them it was done by men from Outer Space.

    • CSM: I've never killed anyone before, and I aim to keep that record.

    • CSM: (With a sniper pointed at Frohike) I can kill you whenever I please... but not today.

    • Deep Throat: I'm the liar. You're the killer.
      CSM: Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime because I've never killed anyone.
      Deep Throat: Maybe I'm not the liar.

    • CSM: How many historic events have only the two of us witnessed together, Ronald? 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.

    • Young CSM: Shouldn't smoke those, Lee. I'm reading studies that say they can kill you.
      Lee: Well, Mr. Hunt, sir, I heard about those reports. (coughs) And they are no doubt correct.

    • CSM: Life... is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. You're stuck with this undefinable whipped-mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while, there's a peanut butter cup, or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast, the taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits, filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts, and if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you've got left is a... is an empty box... filled with useless, brown paper wrappers.

  • NOTES (9)

    • According to a documentary concerning The Lone Gunmen TV Series, CSM was originally written to shoot Frohike dead. However, the writers liked the characters of TLG so much they hated the idea of killing one off. So they re-wrote the episode to having CSM have Frohike in his sights, but deciding not to kill him.

    • On one of the covers in the newsstand where the Cigarette-Smoking Man picks up a copy of 'Roman à Clef' bears the cover line "Where the hell is Darin Morgan?". This is a reference to the departure of Darin Morgan from the writing staff of The X-Files.

    • Walden Roth, the editor who finally buys the Cigarette-Smoking Man's story, is named after Dana Walden, 20th Century Fox's head of drama, and Peter Roth, president of the Entertainment Group for Fox Broadcasting Company.

    • Cancerman's aliases when meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray are based on supposedly real people. According to some conspiracy theorists, Oswald kept a correspondence with a "Mr. Hunt" before the assassination, and numerous people have named a co-conspirator in the slaying of Martin Luther King Jr. as "Raoul", which Ray calls Cancerman in this episode.

    • David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson do not appear in this episode. Only their voices are heard and Gillian is seen only in footage from the pilot episode.

    • Chris Owens, who plays the young CSM here and again later this season in 'Demons', will return in season 5 to play Agent Jeffrey Spender, the son of CSM.

    • Morgan Weisser (Lee Harvey Oswald) played Lt. Nathan West in Morgan and Wong's Space: Above and Beyond. In season 4, the main cast of S:A&B appeared on The X-Files; Tucker Smallwood in "Home", Kristen Cloke in "The Field Where I Died" and Rod Rowland in "Never Again." Morgan and Wong said that "they were showing their actors off."

    • The title of the magazine that CSM finally gets published in, 'Roman À Clef', means a novel in which actual persons or places are fictionally depicted.

    • Lee Harvey Oswald calls young Cancerman "Mr. Hunt". In reality, E. Howard Hunt wrote a number of espionage thrillers under a pseudonym at the same time that he worked for the CIA and was supposedly in Dallas when JFK was assassinated. His name has been batted around by JFK conspiracy theorists for many years.


    • Magazine Title: Roman à Clef
      The title of the magazine to which the Cigarette Smoking Man submits his stories is Roman à Clef. The literal translation of this French phrase is "novel with a key." It is a novel in which real events are written up as fiction. The key referred to is not in the text, but in the reader's knowledge of the actual events being described under the guise of fiction. Two well-known romans à clef are Primary Colors, a book supposedly based on William Clinton's presidential campaign, and the film Citizen Kane, a fictionalized account of the life of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.

    • References: Space: Above and Beyond
      There are several references to Morgan and Wong's former series "Space: Above and Beyond" in this episode:

      1. The Cigarette-Smoking Man's first novel is called 'Take a Chance'. This is the catch phrase from the series.

      2. Certain cases are 'classified compartmentalized. This is a level of secrecy invented by Morgan and Wong for their show.

      3. The main character in the Cigarette-Smoking Man's novels is named Jack Colquitt. This was also the name of a soldier in the "Space: Above and Beyond" episode 'Who Monitors the Birds?'.

    • CSM: Life is like a box of chocolates...
      The first line of the Cigarette Smoking Man's rant is taken from the 1993 Robert Zemekis film Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks.