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"Humbug" is the twentieth episode of the second season of The X-Files. It first aired on the Fox network on March 31, 1995. Written by Darin Morgan and directed by Kim Manners, it was Morgan's first script for The X-Files. He would write 3 more scripts in season three. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, separate from the series Mythology arc.


A bizarre murder in Florida brings Mulder and Scully to a town populated by circus freaks and sideshow performers of all shapes and sizes, bringing into question the very definition of "normal."


In the town of Gibsonton, Florida, two brothers are playing in their home outdoor swimming pool one night. However, a mysterious figure approach them from the woods surrounding their home and jumps into the pool without them noticing. As the brothers are playing, they notice something was wrong and before they left the pool, the figure emerged from the water. It was revealed to be a man with a severe skin disease all over his entire body. The man was actually the children's father and scared his children for a bit fun. After some laughs in the pool, the father told his children to go back into the house as it was late and time for them to go to bed. As the kids agreed, they left the pool but the father stayed behind to swim. However, an unknown mysterious figure was approaching the pool from the woods. The man heard the noise and was looking around to see what it was but it was too late as the unseen figure killed the father from the pool.

Mulder and Scully were sent in to investigate the murder of the man known as the "Alligator Man" as he was an entertainer for a circus with a band of strange and talented individuals. Mulder's supernatural focus for the episode is the Fiji Mermaid, a hoax used as a sideshow attraction that first appeared in the mid-1800s. During their investigation, Mulder and Scully shift their suspicion around three of the inhabitants of the city: "The Conundrum", a heavily tattooed man who never talks and will "eat anything"; "Dr. Blockhead", a "body manipulator" and "Jim-Jim the Dogface Boy", a former performer who later became the local sheriff.

During their investigation, Scully points out to Mulder that the both of them have been wrongly suspicious of many of the circus freaks in town simply because of their abnormalities, which could be considered racial profiling of a sort.

The supposed "Fiji Mermaid" ends up being Leonard, the underdeveloped in fetu twin of Lanny, an assistant at the hotel, who carries guests luggage to and from their vehicles. Leonard is capable of exiting and then returning into Lanny's body. Lanny mournfully suggests that the motivation behind his brother's attacks is that he is seeking a new brother, as a replacement for the alcoholic Lanny, by attempting to burrow into their side.

After Leonard disconnects from Lanny for the final time, he is chased by Mulder and Scully into a circus funhouse, where their attempts to catch him prove fruitless. Outside, Leonard attacks the Conundrum as he puts out his garbage. Mulder and Scully exit the funhouse but are unable to find Leonard. They discover the Conundrum lying on the ground with a hugely distended stomach and a contented smile, suggesting that he has killed and devoured Leonard.

Since Leonard is still officially at large, the Sheriff launches a search radiating outwards from the trailer park, looking for fresh tracks. Even as he is orchestrating the search, he sarcastically asks Scully if she was sure that what she saw was a disjoined twin instead of the Fiji Mermaid, which could have jumped into the ocean and swum all the way back to Fiji. Mulder wryly comments that Scully has just gotten a taste of the attitude people usually direct towards him at crime scenes.

Scully notices Dr. Blockhead lashing his belongings onto the roof of his car, preparing to start his own search for Leonard, and hoping to make him part of Blockhead's act. He says Leonard's next likely move will be to try to rejoin with Lanny, but Scully says Lanny died the previous night - from cirrhosis of the liver, not the separation from Leonard. Scully adds that Lanny's autopsy showed severe abnormalities in his circulatory system and internal organs, that were almost umbilical in nature.

Dr. Blockhead philosophically remarks that genetic engineering will soon eliminate not only the extreme abnormalities of the inhabitants of Gibsonton, but also minor imperfections that don't fit in with society's idea of normality. He points at Mulder as the textbook illustration of humanity's future: "buttoned-down suit-and-tie wearing office drones with no individuality." He then declares it is the job of "self-made freaks" like himself and the Conundrum to keep society aware that "nature abhors normality", and inevitably, some kind of mutant will appear - though why that is so, he admits, is as much a mystery to him as it is to Scully.

As Blockhead starts his car, Mulder notices the Conundrum slouched in the passenger seat, semi-conscious or sick. He asks what is wrong, and Blockhead admits he doesn't know. For the first and last time, the Conundrum speaks up, "probably something I ate," and gives a lazy smile. As Dr. Blockhead and the Conundrum drive away, Mulder and Scully turn to each other with confused and somewhat horrified looks on their faces.



Background Information


  • This may be the first episode of the series to venture into the territory of comedy on a much larger scale.
  • Gillian Anderson actually chewed an insect without swallowing, during the shooting of the scene with Dr. Blockhead.


  • Although the setting of this installment is established as Gibsonton, Florida, the train shown briefly in the episode shows rail cars that would not be common in that state. This is due to the filming location in the Pacific Northwest and proximity to Canadian railroads.

Cast and Characters


Main Cast

Guest Starring


External Links

The X-Files episodes
Season 1
"Pilot" ・ "Deep Throat" ・ "Squeeze" ・ "Conduit" ・ "The Jersey Devil" ・ "Shadows" ・ "Ghost in the Machine" ・ "Ice" ・ "Space" ・ "Fallen Angel"
"Eve" ・ "Fire" ・ "Beyond the Sea" ・ "Gender Bender" ・ "Lazarus" ・ "Young at Heart" ・ "E.B.E." ・ "Miracle Man" ・ "Shapes" ・ "Darkness Falls"
"Tooms" ・ "Born Again" ・ "Roland" ・ "The Erlenmeyer Flask"
Season 2
"Little Green Men" ・ "The Host" ・ "Blood" ・ "Sleepless" ・ "Duane Barry" ・ "Ascension" ・ "3" ・ "One Breath" ・ "Firewalker" ・ "Red Museum"
"Excelsis Dei" ・ "Aubrey" ・ "Irresistible" ・ "Die Hand Die Verletzt" ・ "Fresh Bones" ・ "Colony" ・ "End Game" ・ "Fearful Symmetry" ・ "Død Kalm"
"Humbug" ・ "The Căluşari" ・ "F. Emasculata" ・ "Soft Light" ・ "Our Town" ・ "Anasazi"
Season 3
"The Blessing Way" ・ "Paper Clip" ・ "D.P.O." ・ "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" ・ "The List" ・ "2Shy" ・ "The Walk" ・ "Oubliette" ・ "Nisei" ・ "731"
"Revelations" ・ "War of the Coprophages" ・ "Syzygy" ・ "Grotesque" ・ "Piper Maru" ・ "Apocrypha" ・ "Pusher" ・ "Teso Dos Bichos" ・ "Hell Money"
"José Chung's From Outer Space" ・ "Avatar" ・ "Quagmire" ・ "Wetwired" ・ "Talitha Cumi"
Season 4
"Herrenvolk" ・ "Home" ・ "Teliko" ・ "Unruhe" ・ "The Field Where I Died" ・ "Sanguinarium" ・ "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" ・ "Tunguska"
"Terma" ・ "Paper Hearts" ・ "El Mundo Gira" ・ "Leonard Betts" ・ "Never Again" ・ "Memento Mori" ・ "Kaddish" ・ "Unrequited" ・ "Tempus Fugit"
"Max" ・ "Synchrony" ・ "Small Potatoes" ・ "Zero Sum" ・ "Elegy" ・ "Demons" ・ "Gethsemane"
Season 5
"Redux" ・ "Redux II" ・ "Unusual Suspects" ・ "Detour" ・ "The Post-Modern Prometheus" ・ "Christmas Carol" ・ "Emily" ・ "Kitsunegari"
"Schizogeny" ・ "Chinga" ・ "Kill Switch" ・ "Bad Blood" ・ "Patient X" ・ "The Red and the Black" ・ "Travelers" ・ "Mind's Eye" ・ "All Souls"
"The Pine Bluff Variant" ・ "Folie à Deux" ・ "The End"
Season 6
"The Beginning" ・ "Drive" ・ "Triangle" ・ "Dreamland" ・ "Dreamland II" ・ "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" ・ "Terms of Endearment"
"The Rain King" ・ "S.R. 819" ・ "Tithonus" ・ "Two Fathers" ・ "One Son" ・ "Agua Mala" ・ "Monday" ・ "Arcadia" ・ "Alpha" ・ "Trevor" ・ "Milagro"
"The Unnatural" ・ "Three of a Kind" ・ "Field Trip" ・ "Biogenesis"
Season 7
"The Sixth Extinction" ・ "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati" ・ "Hungry" ・ "Millennium" ・ "Rush" ・ "The Goldberg Variation" ・ "Orison"
"The Amazing Maleeni" ・ "Signs and Wonders" ・ "Sein Und Zeit" ・ "Closure" ・ "X-Cops" ・ "First Person Shooter" ・ "Theef" ・ "En Ami" ・ "Chimera"
"all things" ・ "Brand X" ・ "Hollywood A.D." ・ "Fight Club" ・ "Je Souhaite" ・ "Requiem"
Season 8
"Within" ・ "Without" ・ "Patience" ・ "Roadrunners" ・ "Invocation" ・ "Redrum" ・ "Via Negativa" ・ "Surekill" ・ "Salvage" ・ "Badlaa" ・ "The Gift"
"Medusa" ・ "Per Manum" ・ "This is Not Happening" ・ "DeadAlive" ・ "Three Words" ・ "Empedocles" ・ "Vienen" ・ "Alone" ・ "Essence"
Season 9
"Nothing Important Happened Today" ・ "Nothing Important Happened Today II" ・ "Dæmonicus" ・ "4-D" ・ "Lord of the Flies" ・ "Trust No 1"
"John Doe" ・ "Hellbound" ・ "Provenance" ・ "Providence" ・ "Audrey Pauley" ・ "Underneath" ・ "Improbable" ・ "Scary Monsters" ・ "Jump the Shark"
"William" ・ "Release" ・ "Sunshine Days" ・ "The Truth"
Season 10
"My Struggle" ・ "Founder's Mutation" ・ "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster" ・ "Home Again" ・ "Babylon" ・ "My Struggle II"
Season 11
"My Struggle III" ・ "This" ・ "Plus One" ・ "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" ・ "Ghouli" ・ "Kitten" ・ "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" ・ "Familiar"
"Nothing Lasts Forever" ・ "My Struggle IV"