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“Now, are you going to quit playing games or do I have to end your story, too?” — Charlie
They danced the dance of life at Lucky 7 Insurance, a zany conga to celebrate a victory over darkness, a flirtation with damnation, and a windfall of seemingly eternal riches. Casino boss Rodney Mitchum led the line, the men in reaper-black business suits, the women in their newborn-pink bunny dresses. They snaked into the office of Bushnell Mullins, all-father boss of their savior Dougie Jones, whose face was still messy from a night of eating so much cherry pie, and presented old Battlin’ Bud with worshipful gifts just like the magi in the greatest story ever told. The first silver box contained Monte Cristo Number Twos. The second contained a set of monogrammed diamond cufflinks. The third contained the keys to a BMW convertible. Bushnell received their proverbial gold, frankincense, and myrrh with humility. “A wrong has been made right and the sun is shining bright!” said Bradley. The conga train formed anew and Rodney made like the conductor, pulling on an imaginary whistle. They kept the party going like they were living out the happily ever after of a never-ending story. $30 million can make you believe such impossible things.
This was suddenly not a very good Friday for Anthony Sinclair. The Lucky 7 Judas beheld the mini Mardi Gras parading through the halls and felt dread. He had set up Dougie to be whacked by the Mitchums, not venerated by them. His jaw dropped. His face went ashen. He hid under his desk in shame yet called the wrong man to confess his failure. Duncan Todd, the devil that owned his soul, told him there was only one way out and gave him only a day to do it. Anthony said yes, but his soul screamed no. He didn’t want that stain on him; he didn’t want to become a violent man. There was a whole level of the Inferno devoted to such dudes. His life had become a “goddamn bad story,” to borrow from Sarah Palmer, and he wished to hell it would end.
Something tells me the “slip and fall” report on his computer ain’t ever getting finished.
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Heaven on Earth. On the outskirts of Sin City, the little boy who lived down Lancelot lane was shining bright in the dark of the night. So was his new jungle gym. It was another gift from those gracious Mitchums, a colorful play-set strung with lights and accessorized with a glowing golden arch. So, one of those tacky-glitzy casino-style jungle gyms. Damn, I want one. On the soundtrack: “Dance of the Swans” by Tchaikovsky, from Swan Lake, a ballet about treacherous, dehumanizing mystical transformation yearning for reversal, a story that Agent Cooper could surely relate to.
David Lynch made this blissful beat more enchanted — and maybe unsettling? — by casting a spotlight around the yard, as if trying to capture Sonny Jim. But the boy would be caught by this familiar, symbolic effect: In Twin Peaks past, it has signified the presence of Black Lodge spirits, most notably that scruffy denim-clad reaper and Garmonbozia harvester, BOB. See: the terrifying moment when possessed Leland murdered his niece, Maddie, a spotlight stalking their dance of death.
Janey-E watched her son with Dougie at her side, wanting this magic moment to last forever. She had thought Dougie had gone on another bender when he didn’t come home the night before. She felt relieved, grateful, and blessed anew to discover that no, Dougie, still sober and faithful, was simply doing his job and doing it well, and bringing home new riches for the whole family as a result. “Sonny Jim’s in Seventh Heaven,” she said. Dougie repeated the words “Seventh Heaven” as if they meant something, but couldn’t divine the significance. Maybe Dante can help. Last week, Twin Peaks evoked the ninth rung of the Inferno, a frozen lake set aside for those who commit treason.The seventh sphere of Dante’s Paradise is a golden ladder, set aside for the prayerful who practiced temperance in all forms, including teetotalism, asceticism and prayer. I remember the tune we heard back in Part 8, right before The Woodsman invaded a radio station and put a town to sleep with a rhyme about death: “My Prayer” by The Platters. My prayer is to linger with you/At the end of the day in a dream that’s divine/My prayer is a rapture in blue/With the world far away and your lips close to mine…
This is surely Janey-E’s prayer, too. Perhaps she thinks it’s already come true, that she’s living some blue heaven in the dunes of Vegas. But how illusory is this glitzy joy, how fleeting is this material happiness? For the irony of her euphoria is that the reason for it — the seemingly born-again temperance of a man she assumes to be her husband – might vanish if sleepwalker Cooper should awaken. Eat, drink, and be merry on your jungle gyms, for tomorrow, you may die.
So it went in Part 13, which presented people relishing moments of contentment and longing for their continuance or stuck in moments of torment and longing for their termination. Yet “What’s the story, Charlie?” was also limned with ominous foreshadowing for almost everyone. The specter of death or meta-enlightenment chased many of them like a searching spotlight, as if to remind that nothing lasts forever, and that the saga of Twin Peaks: The Return is approaching its end.
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Hell on Earth. There’s a place in Western Montana that only bad men know about, a nondescript warehouse underworld teeming with meaty scum and manly villainy, a haven for sinister dicks run by a white devil named Renzo (Derek Mears), a bullet-headed rock. It is called The Farm. It is to this place that Ray fled after shooting Mr. C and leaving him to be harrowed by BOB-collecting Woodsmen way back in Part 8. And it is to this place that now-hollowed revenant Mr. C arrived in Part 13, looking for coordinates to a higher plane, not to mention payback. Perhaps Maddie knew of it back when she breathed, before violence sent her into the afterlife: Laura’s lookalike cousin was from Missoula, located in Western Montana.
Ray, Renzo and his goons watched Mr. C’s entrance on a ginormous flat-screen TV, continuing the meta-fixation with knowing surveillance, of people watching and waiting for something to happen. Ray – surrounded by Renzo’s goon squad, exuding smug strength-in-numbers confidence — thought he was happily-ever-after safe in the company of criminals (ha!) and believed he had trapped the grim reaper stalking him. Double ha! Ray had it backwards: His Shiva – his bringer of death, his destroyer worlds — had trapped him. The scene echoed another moment from earlier in the season: young lovers Sam and Tracey, watching a glass box designed by Mr. C himself to snare a Black Lodge spirit. It didn’t end well for them – the Experiment got in their faces and bored-and-gored their noggins — and it wouldn’t end well for Ray.
Mr. C ascended by freight elevator to a higher floor to confront Ray. Now, if you accept my contention that The Farm is Hell, then check this out. Moving up from the ninth rung of the Inferno (referenced last week) to the seventh rung (to match Dougie’s “seventh heaven” day in Las Vegas), we find the realm reserved for those damned by violence — you know, men like Renzo and Ray and their brutal brood. Murderers who’ve been violent to people and property. Suicides who’ve been transformed into trees and bushes and become food for demonic harpies. Blasphemers marooned in a burning desert, scorched by acid rain. Make of these observations what you will. Think about them when we revisit Anthony.
Muddy (Frank Collison), Renzo’s right-hand man, explained the “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” rule of those who dare visit The Farm. You have to play a game — an arm-wrestling duel with Renzo. Win, and you become the new boss. Lose, and you become owned by the boss — or killed. Bug-eyed Muddy explained that in 14 years, no one had ever bested the current underworld king, and he didn’t think Mr. C had the muscle to end Renzo’s reign. Muddy told him to turn away. Mr. C didn’t budge. The mottled skin man-in-black kept his cool; you could say he was a model of seventh heaven temperance. (He was certainly devoid of spirits, BOB and otherwise.)
Mr. C also wasn’t too impressed with demon godfather Renzo and all his minor devil foot-soldiers, either. The doppelganger knew true evil because he was pure evil, the shadow self incarnate, or perhaps, fancied himself a superman who had passed through notions of good and evil and transcended them. He viewed these silly low-lifes — a collection of central casting goons — as imitations of real-deal darkness, like some poor shadows of the Platonic ideal of evil that he himself represented. (The Farm = The Allegory of the Cave: Breaking Bad Edition.) “What is this, kindergarten? Nursery school?” teased Mr. C, working his flat tones to droll effect. He told them he didn’t want to be their boss if he beat Renzo. He just wanted Ray. In this way, Mr. C’s adventure belonged to another category of Hell stories, those ancient myths of heroes venturing into the underworld to bargain with or battle with the chief deity for the soul of some true love or friend.
“Let’s step inside and play the game,” said Renzo, pretending to be a gentleman about it. But then the hot-headed fiend donkey-punched Mr. C on the way to the testing table. Rude! Is there no honor among thieves? “That was from the nursery school teacher,” quipped Renzo. Mr. C was hardly fazed, but his black eyes burned.
They took their seats. Muddy, playing referee, called out the rules. Renzo and Mr. C clasped mitts. The struggle commenced. Renzo immediately got the upper hand, but we all knew that Mr. C was just toying with him. The scene became an exhibition of Mr. C’s mastery of power and self — and a metaphor for Lynch’s own mastery as a director of tones, moments, and storytelling in general.
It was also a display of patience, and at the risk of going off on a tangent, I’d like to note that this isn’t the first time Lynch has given a “patience game” reference in Twin Peaks. We saw it wayyy back in Part 1, when we saw Lucy playing solitaire at her desk during that curious scene when The Insurance Man showed up looking for Sheriff Truman – a but of business that now plays like foreshadowing and wink-wink telegraphing (see Darren Franich’s recent ace analysis here). We also saw playing cards on the table at Buella’s shack in the woods during that scene. Solitaire is also known by another name: “Patience.” It’s a game in which one organizes a shuffled deck of cards following a loose framework of arbitrary rules — sorta like the way Lynch approaches saga construction, organizing his collection of shot scenes following his intuitive system of logic. In retrospect, we see Lynch signaling something to us via game code: Abandon all hope for expedient, conventional storytelling, those who watch; this story requires patience and plays by my rules.
Mr. C took Renzo back to starting position with ease. He let Renzo drive him down by degrees, then again returned their clasped hands to starting position and took over the narrative of the game for good. “It hurt my arm when you moved it down here. But it really hurt when you moved it down here,” said Mr. C, guiding Renzo’s hand to various points on the spectrum. He then drove Renzo the other way, toward pain and suffering, defeat and death. “See? Doesn’t that hurt your arm when I go like that? And I think it’s much worse when I put it down there.” Renzo was shocked. His goon squad was stunned. And Ray was freaking the f— out. Mr. C finally decided enough was enough. His black eyes flared with intensity — a psychotic snap — and he drove Renzo’s hand to the table. He then rammed a fist into Renzo’s nose and seemingly through his face, ending the bad man’s story.
One interesting thing about the sequence: It put the audience in the position of wanting what Mr. C wanted, which is to say, wanting to see an evil man — the most evil man — flourish. I mean, wouldn’t it be better, all things considered, if Renzo put him down? Yet we wanted Mr. C to win because there are mysteries to solve, loose ends to tie up, and better final confrontations to be had, and we want Mr. C to be the one who facilitates this. It wouldn’t be the last time in “What’s the story, Charlie?” that Lynch and Mark Frost played wicked games with our rooting interest. C’mon, admit it: Y’all were kinda hoping for Anthony to kill Dougie, weren’t you? Again, more on that soon.
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Victorious, Muddy declared Mr. C the new boss. Mr. C asked for phones, and the scene seemed to be prodding us to wonder “why?” when one of the goons noted that there’s no cell reception at The Farm. We know that Black Lodge entities have an affinity for electricity; they might even feed on it. Did Mr. C need the phones for their battery packs so he could replenish his energy? (That might explain that international phone call he made from prison that caused the electrical grid to glitch and resulted in the immolation — and absorption? — of the pager-like device in Buenos Aires: Mr. C was eating. He’s like an A-bomb-munching monster from a Godzilla movie. He’s MUTO.)
Ray tried to run. Mr. C crippled him with a shot to the leg. Interrogation ensued. Info was coughed up. A man — entity — calling himself Phillip Jeffries had hired Ray to kill Mr. C, promising him freedom from prison — or perhaps a more profound existential bind — if he committed this murder. Ray only knew The Man Who May or May Not Be Phillip Jeffries as a voice on the phone. “He said you got something inside you that they want,” explained Ray. He was most likely referring to BOB, and we might remember that back in Part 2, when Mr. C talked on the phone with someone he thought to be Phillip, the voice expressed a desire to be reunited with BOB.
Mr. C asked if “Phillip” ever mentioned a Major Briggs. Ray said no. Mr. C didn’t question the response.
Ray said that “Phillip” conspired with Warden Murphy on the assassination plot. A prison guard who was most likely not a prison guard slipped Ray an emerald owl ring. Ray was supposed to put it on Mr. C’s left-hand ring finger after he killed him. For some reason, Ray forgot to perform that task after shooting Mr. C in the woods, although in fairness to him, the bum rush of creepy Woodsmen who attended to Mr. C’s body and withdrew the glob of BOB from him made it difficult. (At one point during the interrogation, Ray said, “I know who you are,” which I took to mean that Ray was aware that Mr. C is a Black Lodge entity. Do we think Ray is a Black Lodge entity, too?)
Mr. C made Ray produce the ring and put it in on his own finger. He then asked for the coordinates. Ray dug into his pocket for a crumpled piece of paper, but before he did, he tried to plant some doubt in Mr. C’s mind. What if he fabricated these numbers? How would Mr. C know? But we know something that Ray didn’t: Mr. C had secured a source that could provide verification in the form of Diane, his mole in the Blue Rose Task Force. In fact, one irony of this scene is that, for the most part, Ray didn’t say anything that Mr. C (or we) didn’t already know or couldn’t surmise…except, that is, for the very last thing Ray told him. Mr. C asked for “Phillip’s” location.
“Last I heard, he was at a place called The Dutchman’s,” said Ray. “But it’s not a real place–”
“I know what it is,” said Mr. C, and with that, he shot Ray, ending his story.
As Ray stopped breathing, the owl ring on his finger disappeared. We cut to the Red Room and saw the ring drop on the chevron floor. It was placed on the golden mantle by a hand that presumably belonged to Mike, the One-Armed Man and BOB’s former killing partner. Mike did the same thing after Dougie — who also sported an emerald owl ring, maybe the same emerald owl ring — was sucked into the Red Room via Mr. C’s trickery. (Right now, I suspect that Mike is Faux Phillip, but I’m still holding out hope that we’ll get a David Bowie cameo downstream.) A copy of Ray’s body materialized in the Red Room, even as his corpse remained in The Farm. I’m thinking the ring committed Ray’s soul to the Black Lodge, just as Laura’s soul was sent to the Black Lodge when BOB-Leland killed her thanks to her mystical bling. Maybe we’ll see Ray again, somewhere in the Sycamore trees.
So: What is “The Dutchman’s” and where is it located?
Well, this isn’t the first time this season that a course has been set for a “not-real place.” We remember a few weeks ago, when Bobby Briggs decoded a message from his late father, the good Major, telling his boy to travel to “Jack Rabbit’s Palace” in Ghostwood Forest, a place where they played make-believe games when Bobby was a kid. So maybe “The Dutchman’s” is another spot in the mythic landscape that the Briggs boys mapped upon those woods long ago. (Sonny Jim, hopping like a rabbit on the backyard jungle gym = young Bobby playing in “Jack Rabbit’s Palace” in his proverbial backyard of Ghostwood Forest? Debate!) Second, “not a real place” contributes to the growing number of winks and nods that would seem to suggest we’re headed toward a meta-fictional twist or Mulholland Drive-ish psychotic break in the narrative. And third? There’s a legend of the American Southwest known as “The Dutchman’s Secret” that posits that there’s a gold mine somewhere in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction of Arizona. A key figure in that tale is a guy named Dr. Thorne. My crazy theory for you today is that the secret of “The Dutchman’s” is that it’s a coded salute to John Thorne, the great Twin Peaks super-fan and scholar. (John, you are the Nadine to LynchFrost’s Dr. Amp. Thanks for keeping the golden dream alive during the run silent, run deep years.)
As the Mr. C-Ray drama played out, Renzo’s goon squad watched via their big-screen TV, like it was an episode of Invitation to Love. We saw a late arrival push his way to the front to get a better look at Mr. C. It was a none other than Richard Horne, drug dealer, rapacious misogynist, accidental killer, wannabe murderer, destroyer of property, plunderer of family riches, and the antithesis of temperance. He fit right in among the violent cases in the hellish rung that is The Farm. As he gazed into the screen, and as abysmal black-eyed Mr. C seemed to gaze back, I wonder if Dick saw a family resemblance. Daddy? Is that you?
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Anthony Sinclair Tries to Poison His Soul. But first, more fun and games with the Fusco brothers! We found the sibling police detectives talking with their mom on the phone — it sounded like she was trying to drop by the station for a visit but lost her way — and making plans for Sunday dinner with her. Provided, of course, nobody got murdered on the day of rest — a thought that made them chuckle and made me wonder if we’ll look back on this moment as more ominous foreshadowing.
Contributing to the unease and the dark comedy was some drama in the background. We heard a woman causing a ruckus in the waiting room as she was trying to file a complaint about a corrupt cop. (“I’ll s— in your mouth!” “F— you, you twinkies!” “I’ll cut your nuts off!”) She was Tasered into submission and silence.
The Fusco played by David Koechner entered with the results of Dougie’s fingerprint analysis. They matched a former FBI agent named Dale Cooper and a guy with the same name who just escaped from a South Dakota prison. That didn’t sound anything like the Dougie Jones they knew. It was so absurd that they laughed once more, and Koechner-Fusco wadded up the report and tossed it into the waste bin, earning him a buck from each of his brothers. And so it goes that the Fuscos go the way of Ike the Spike, the Mitchums, and assorted hitmen: characters set up to be threats to Dougie or create complications for him, only to be comically derailed and neutralized. They wouldn’t be the last.
Re-enter Anthony Sinclair, on the hunt for one Detective Clark. The Fuscos directed him to a back alley, where all the dirty rats live: Clark, played by the great John Savage (Hair, The Onion Field, The Deer Hunter, Dark Angel), was one of two gone-bad cops toiling for Duncan Todd. Anthony wanted to score some poison so he could kill Dougie quick and easy, without getting his hands too dirty. Clark offered to sell him Aconitine, a toxin with a rich literary history. It appears in Oscar Wilde’s “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” a short, macabre story about a man desperate to fulfill his destiny to become a murderer, a pre-condition for his true desire, getting married. (The story involves a novelty trick bomb, a beat that sounds somewhat Audrey-esque.) Aconitine also factors into Ulysses, James Joyce’s great modernist novel and a sophisticated communion with The Odyssey; the poison was the one used by Leopold Bloom’s dad to commit suicide.
Clark told Anthony that Aconitine was the perfect mode of violence for someone like him, “a real f—ing coward. It makes me sick just looking at you.” Anthony blanched at the judgment — why so harsh? Couldn’t they see he’s trying to protect their crew? — but he knew it to be true. “He’s cracking,” said Clark to his crooked partner after Anthony had scurried away. They resolved to notify Duncan Todd, unaware that he was well aware how unhinged Anthony was becoming, and that he was close to cracking himself.
Sunday School with Hutch and Chantal. Fresh off the murder of the warden, sociopaths-in-love Hutch and Chantal drove through Utah en route to Vegas to execute their next round of wet-work for Mr. C. Their banter was Tarantino banal, as it was last week. Chantal, munching on chips, wondered aloud about Mormon teetotalism and temperance. Ditto Hutch, who hazily recalled that Mormon dudes were allowed to have multiple wives. Chantal was baffled. If Mormon dudes could reproduce with multiple wives, why weren’t there more Mormons? “I guess it’s the drinks,” she concluded. They continued in silence, pondering questions their ignorance will never properly answer, making their way to Sin City to inflict their glib, stupid violence. Maybe they’ll be the ones who’ll ruin the Fuscos’ Sunday dinner? (By the way: What does it say that Hutch and Chantal have one of the better, more functional romantic relationships on the show?)
The Flake’s Progress. With Aconitine burning a hole in his breast pocket and anxiety flaring in his heart, Anthony ambushed Dougie upon his arrival at the Lucky 7 business complex the next morning. (Dougie’s still having trouble with crossing thresholds: He ran headlong into a glass door and had to wait for someone else to open it for him.) Anthony offered to buy him coffee, Dougie readily accepted, and soon they were sitting at a table sipping java. Dougie was distracted by the sight of cherry pie, giving Anthony an opportunity to spike his mug. As Dougie returned to his seat and that steaming mug, I must confess I felt a twinge of anticipation. Dougie’s going die! This is going to be the beginning of Cooper’s second reincarnation! Our hero is going to get born again right! Do it, Anthony! Do it! And so, once more, the show put is in a position to root for evil to win.
Nope. Dougie approached Anthony from behind and noticed that his shoulders were sprinkled with dandruff. Or was it Black Lodge magic dust, shed by Cooper’s fairy godfather Mike? Dougie reached out to feel the flakes, then kneaded them into Anthony’s shoulders with his fingertips. (Did Dougie think he was making a pie?) This massage — this human contact — stood in contrast to the arm wrestle between Mr. C and Renzo. It had the same effect, a victory over an enemy, but by different means. Dougie’s gentle touch nudged Anthony’s conscience. He grabbed Dougie’s coffee, hustled to the bathroom, and poured it into a urinal. “That bad?” quipped some dude taking a whiz. If you consider the broad strokes of Anthony’s actions — an arc of temptation involving poisoned drink — they play like a metaphor for an alcoholic or someone struggling with addiction trying very hard to stay sober, to stay on the right side of heavenly temperance.
And so it went that Dougie saved himself and saved Anthony from becoming a murderer through the holy sacraments of coffee, cherry pie, and flaky scalp skin. Seventh rung of hell averted!
Upstairs, a Christian dynamic of forgiveness played out. Anthony, with Christ-figure Dougie at his side, confessed all his sins in the court of high-father Bushnell. He had been seduced by greed, envy and the things of the world. He had lied and cheated for money, the root of all evil. He had defrauded Bushnell’s business and subverted the integrity of a righteous enterprise. Sorry! The big man let his fallen friend and No. 1 sales agent have it, ripping into him with the right amount of shame. But then he said: “Now that you’re confessing, I have to admit that my anger and contempt for you is subsiding.”
Anthony moved into the atonement phase. He wanted nothing more than to make this right, and he’d rather be dead if he couldn’t. “I haven’t slept for weeks. I vomited blood. I can’t live like this. I only want to die or change,” said Anthony, his choice of words echoing Gordon Cole’s sentiments about Denise’s transphobic haters from earlier this season. (“Fix your hearts or die!”) Bushnell presented his terms for penance. Anthony would have to testify against Duncan Todd and Detective Clark and his partner. Anthony was okay with Todd but initially balked at ratting out the bad cops. “They’re worse than Todd! You don’t know what you’re asking!” But Bushnell wasn’t really asking, and Anthony’s desire for sanctification was greater than his fear. “I only want to fix this mess I made!” In this moment, at least, Anthony proved Detective Clark wrong. Confessing and committing to atonement? Nothing cowardly about that.
Playing games with time. Last week, we observed that the Diane scenes in Part 12 most likely took place both before and after the events of Part 11 and we wondered if Lynch was playing scenes out of order. I think he did it again this week. Becky called Shelly to complain about Steven: Her flaky, drug-addled hubby had been MIA two days. Mom told her to get down to the Double R for some ministerial TLC of cherry pie à la mode, ASAP. A subsequent scene, set in the evening after Shelly had left work, saw Bobby hit the Double R for dinner (his usual: a plate of spaghetti and two pieces of garlic bread) and speak of an event that happened earlier that day, the discovery of “some stuff my dad left for me,” i.e., the direction about “Jack Rabbit’s Palace” hidden in a tube secreted inside Major Briggs’ favorite chair. At no point did anyone reference the events of two weeks ago, when Becky went gunning for Steven upon discovering his adultery with Donna’s little sister and Bobby had to deal with madness in the streets outside the Double R.
Conclusion: I’m thinking that all the Double R scenes in Part 13 – and the Sarah Palmer scene later in this hour, too – took place the night prior to the events of Part 11. Again, my Solitaire-theory take is that Lynch is shuffling and sorting scenes based on some gut feeling for what makes for a good part and that he trusts us to figure it out or just roll with it. But I also think these disruptions in continuity nurture a growing sense of a buggy narrative, foreshadowing some reality-renting event.
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The Last Temptation of Norma Jennings. First, let’s welcome back “Big” Ed Hurley to Twin Peaks! We met him anew enjoying the company of Norma Jennings, as it should be. But as things have almost always been, these old true loves aren’t together. While we don’t yet know the status of the Ed-Nadine union, we do know that Norma is smooching her chief financial advisor, Walter, played by Grant Goodeve (Eight is Enough, Northern Exposure). We learned something else: Norma had franchised the Double R — five locations, total — using the name “Norma’s Double R Diner.” Three of the five are turning a profit. One of the two that isn’t: the Twin Peaks flagship. It’s the only one that doesn’t use the “Norma” brand. Also? Norma insists on using costly ingredients in her best-selling pies — natural, organic, local (Dr. Amp would approve!) — and not charging enough for them. The profitable locations follow her recipes but use cheaper, lamer, world-of-s— stuff. People are buying those pies, but Norma has heard they don’t like them as much as her pastry.
It was easy to interpret their biz talk as a wink-wink swipe at Hollywood’s practice of brand-driven franchise filmmaking, with Norma presented as the corrective, an uncompromising, perfectionist auteur with a respect for tradition and collaboration who makes things with love. But the business of franchising and brand extensions –replicating yourself; turning yourself into a durable icon — is also a metaphor for wanting permanence, for cheating death. I’m not sure Twin Peaks believes in such immortality projects, at least, not when their expressed through the things of the world.
“Norma, you’re a real artist, but love doesn’t always turn a profit,” said Walter. On behalf of the board of directors (the Double R has a board of directors, too?!), Walter asked Norma to set aside 50 years of history and re-brand the flagship and consider “tweaking the formula” of her pies “to insure consistency and profitability.” Norma didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no, either, and you got the sense that Walter had successfully maneuvered her — steamrolled her — into a position to submit.
And as Norma sat at the table, struggling to hold her ground as her charming, slick-talking lover-partner-tempter tried to gently bend her to his will (another mirrored arm-wrestle), she could feel Ed’s eyes upon her, jealously longing for her, and maybe judging her, too. Will Norma sell out? Cliffhanger!
When Dr. Jacoby met Nadine. Another hustler had a romantic encounter with an uncompromising, enterprising visionary in Part 13, albeit with an ironic twist. While driving through Twin Peaks at night, Dr. Jacoby spotted one of his fake gold shovels hanging in the window of Nadine’s blinds shop, Run Silent, Run Drapes. He was deeply moved that his raw “Dr. Amp” rants (and his shameful infomercial hucksterism) had made an impact on somebody, and he had to find out whom. His pounding interrupted Nadine in the middle of work. But her heart melted and eyes popped wide when she saw it was her hero, Dr. Amp. She gushed and thanked him for the inspiration of his words. ”You have done so much for me,” said Nadine. “Thanks to you, I am really starting to shovel myself out of the s—!” Dr. Jacoby sheepishly accepted her praise, although it was hard to tell if that sheepishness was out of sincere humility and some small shame. Nadine may have been playing the role of fawning fan here, but in truth, she’s the truer artist and better star of the two.
Still, their meet-cute was sweet, you got the sense of a spark, and I was happy that these two lonely souls had found each other, in person, and connected. Now, I want all your Nadine-Jacoby ‘shipper fiction. But the scene took a peculiar, slightly dark turn when Jacoby recounted the last time he saw Nadine. It was seven years ago. She was down on all fours in a supermarket, chasing after a potato she had dropped. “There was a big storm that day,” he recalled. Nadine was either embarrassed or triggered. “Oh,” she said, and didn’t finish the thought. Perhaps this was just LynchFrost’s way of reminding us that Nadine has some damage and she’s prone to ups and downs, but it also left me wondering if there’s a story to be told about that stormy period of life.
The Loop. Another check-in on the lived-out, dead-end despair of Sarah Palmer, another sensational scene for Lynch and one of his longtime collaborators, Grace Zabriskie. Talk about temperance and failing at it: Sarah was sunk in her sickly green couch, smoking cigarettes, drinking Vodka, and vegging out to an old, black-and-white boxing match on the TV. Two bits of synchronicity here: (1) Boxing match brings to mind Battlin’ Bud. (2) Sarah Palmer making like a couch potato, right after a scene in which Dr. Jacoby talked about potatoes. Coincidence? Patterning and correspondences (what’s up with so many of the women in this show wearing circle/ring charms on necklaces?) are dream narrative tactics.
So is narrative looping. The more we spied on her and eavesdropped on her, the more we realized she wasn’t watching a continuous boxing match, but a snippet of one, over and over again. We heard the sportscaster narrate a knockdown and a segue from round one into round two, then the clanging of the bell, then some static, and then the same narration repeated. At one point, Sarah got up to fetch another bottle of Vodka from the kitchen. At another point, she got up and left the room again. It was here that we heard some deviation in the looping broadcast — some words dropped out, maybe the static too – and we cut out of the scene before Sarah came back. The weirdness will certainly nurture the speculation that something profoundly bizarre and disruptive — supernatural — is occurring in Sarah’s haunted house. But the scene works for me as a surreal expression of Sarah’s addictions and a woman stuck in moments of madness and a circuitous memory play of horror she can’t escape. She deserves a mercy. The gaming of Sarah Palmer needs to stop; her goddamn bad story needs an end.
(Recap continues on page 6)
Gaslight? Sarah Palmer might not be the only person in Twin Peaks playing out some screwy pattern of behavior or pathology. Last week’s reintroduction of Audrey Horne left fans dissatisfied if not upset. It wasn’t just that she wasn’t the character we once knew. There wasn’t anything authentic or credible to the character she had.
Turns out Audrey herself would totally agree with that assessment.
We picked up with Audrey and her husband Charlie where we left them, arguing over a plan of action regarding the pursuit of Audrey’s MIA lover Billy, except now they were in a different room. Audrey still wanted to know what exactly Tina had told Charlie on the phone. Charlie refused. Audrey persisted. Charlie told her to just stop it already. Suddenly, Audrey changed the subject and began questioning her own existence.
“I feel like I’m someone else. Have you ever had that feeling, Charlie?”
Nope, he hadn’t.
“Like I’m somewhere else and I’m somebody else. Have you ever felt that?”
“No, I always feel like myself,” said Charlie. “And it may not always be the best feeling.“
“Well, I’m not sure who I am, but I’m not me.”
“This is existentialism 101,” said Charlie. It was hard to tell what he meant by his lack of empathy and demeaning put-down. Had he heard this pattern before and grown tired of it? Was he trying to stop a familiar, repeating spiral by pumping the brakes on her self-pity? Or was he gaslighting her, trying to shame her out of questioning a reality that she should totally be questioning?
Regardless, Audrey resented it. “Oh, f— you, Charlie! I’m serious!”
Audrey said the only person she trusted was herself, which was hard, because she couldn’t even trust who she was. “So what the f— am I supposed to do?”
Charlie said what she was supposed to be doing was going to the Roadhouse. But Audrey didn’t know where it was or had forgotten. Or was she just feigning Roadhouse ignorance? Charlie had had enough. “Now are you gonna stop playing games or do I have to end your story, too?”
End your story? What did that mean? Is this some elaborate role-play between husband and wife or psychotherapist and patient? Is Charlie some meta-fictional demon who’s hijacked the collective consciousness of Twin Peaks and trapped them in a matrix of his design? Oh my gosh: Is this Legion?
End your story, too? What other story has he ended? Did he mean Renzo? Ray? Someone else?
Whatever Charlie meant, his ominous ultimatum fascinated and floored Audrey. She sat down. She asked earnestly, “What story is that, Charlie? Is it the story of the little girl who lives down the lane?” The reference here? Don’t know. A personal story known to both of them. The nursery rhyme “Ba-Ba Black Sheep.” Maybe the 1976 Jodie Foster movie The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, the tale of a young teenage girl who lives all alone in a house and has sinister secrets in her basement. Poison is a key plot point.
Charlie — pretending as if his meta-subversive threat had never been said — reverted back to context. Were they going to the Roadhouse or not? “Now you’re looking like you want to stay…”
“I want to stay and I want to go. I want to do both,” said Audrey. “What should it be, Charlie? Which me would you be, Charlie? Help me, Charlie! It’s like Ghostwood here?”
I have many thoughts, many theories, and I’ve already suggested a few. Another one: I wondered if Audrey wasn’t referring to Ghostwood Forest or her father’s old Ghostwood development project but a mental institution called Ghostwood. She might have been a patient there once. She might be a patient there now.
But this week, I have this overwhelming desire to let the mystery be, to let it be weird. I’ve done a 180 on Audrey. Last week, I kinda hated whatever it was Lynch and Frost were going for. I still have no idea what they’re going for, but dammit, I want to know. So now I’m all in, but with a caveat:
Wanting to know the answer to what’s eating Audrey Horne means wanting her story — all of the show’s stories — to commence resolution. It means wanting Twin Peaks to end. And I don’t want that! I want to linger here forever! In Audrey’s should-I-stay-or-should-I-go clash, I see, hear, and feel my own conflict interest. Yes! Let’s hit the road to the endgame? No! I do not want to go there! What to do? What to want? Help me, LynchFrost! I feel like Ghostwood here!
“Just you…and I…together…forever…in love…” Speaking of the Roadhouse, Part 13’s featured musical performance was as strange as Audrey’s reality blur. For the first time, a fictional musical act took the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen,” said the Emcee at his pine cone microphone, “the Roadhouse is proud to welcome… James Hurley!”
Yes, that James Hurley. Former secret boyfriend to Laura Palmer, former lover of Donna Hayward, former sucker for femme fatales and lame neo-noir subplots. He was last seen hopping on his bike and blazing south to San Francisco. One of his signature moments in the original series: recording an old school rockabilly ballad called “Just You” with Donna and Maddie singing back-up. This ridiculously sincere scene segued into one of the most terrifying scenes in all of Twin Peaks, Maddie’s vision of BOB appearing in the Hayward dining room, climbing over the couch, getting right into her face and roaring — a foreshadowing of her murder, the end of her story.
Now, 25 years later, James was on the Roadhouse stage, singing “Just You” once again. The guitar was the same, the thin falsetto vocal was the same, and besides the bald head, even James seemed the same. It was all rather lovely, the sentiment accentuated by cutaways to a woman named Renee listening, smiling, and crying. Was James performing for her? Dunno. His song spoke for us, too, and that longing to linger in the story of Twin Peaks forever…
But for me, the scene turned sad, even creepy, when we saw that James had a two back-up singers with him, a pair of young women, both brunettes, just like Donna and Maddie. Suddenly, you got the sense that James wasn’t revisiting his past but stuck in a nostalgia trap, and willingly so, even recruiting or remaking young women to be Donna and Maddie doppelgangers like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo.
The final moment of Part 13 might have been a comment on James and the final destination of his dead-end pining, with his fixation with what was and what could have been. We saw his uncle, Big Ed Hurley, a man also owned by the past, sitting alone behind a desk at his gas station, looking out the window at the pumps, sipping yellowy soup from a Double R to-go cup, with nothing to keep him company except his memories, most them reminding him of lost love and unrealized dreams. It was a moving still life of quiet pain and sorrow, beautifully sad and subtly devastating.
P.S.: Look closely at Ed’s reflection in the window during the over-the-shoulder shot. His image not only doesn’t match what Ed is doing while sitting at the desk (Reflected Ed is eating soup; “Real” Ed is not), the reflected image glitches, too. What game is Lynch playing here? More clues that there’s something screwy with representational reality and temporal continuity? Also, watch the cars that pass by. The first one that leaves frame on the left glitches or doubles as it goes…
This show is going to make me crazy, isn’t it? Audrey, is there room at Ghostwood for one more patient?