Twin Peaks recap: 'The Return: Part 9'
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It’s hard to remember our first sighting of Major Briggs on Twin Peaks. He’s there in the pilot episode, but he didn’t stick out amidst the premiere parade of oddballs and lawmen and oddball lawmen. Major Briggs looked like a man who had always been there, head bare as Death Valley, face built for archival photographs.
Don S. Davis played the Major — in life, and now, in death. Davis served in the army, and so he could play Briggs with unfussy nonchalance, the deadpan you earn with the uniform. Major Briggs seemed glued into his uniform, and you might have thought he was a real hardass. The easy dichotomy was there inside the Briggs family: Here was the Major, some old version of the American dad, raising a son who seemed like two eras of counterculture youth, James Dean circa Cobain. But humans contain unknowable multitudes, and Major Briggs revealed himself as a seeker of the highest order. He had visions of white light and palazzos. He disappeared into the woods and returned with memories of stone thrones lurking in distant cosmic Edens. He was tapped in to the peculiar energy of Twin Peaks. He was some kind of mystic, and some sort of hero.
Major Briggs was there at the start of this revived season, too, in a line of dialogue. Recall the nefarious Cooper doppelganger in Part 2, speaking to a synthesized voice. The voice could have been Phillip Jeffries, or some distant box-bursting Experiment, or a Woodsman looking for light. “I missed you in New York,” the voice said. And: “You met with Major Garland Briggs.”
Briggs has lingered throughout the season ever since. His great big head floated by Agent Cooper in the starscape, whispering “Blue Rose” as a clue or a cry for help. His body’s trapped with us here on Earth, cooling in the Buckhorn morgue. In Part 9 of Twin Peaks — colloquially titled “This Is the Chair” — major characters and events swirled around Major Briggs. He was the glue, sticking together so many different strands of this strange story. Or perhaps he is the drain they are all spiraling down.
What an honor to be filling in on the recap of this episode! I’m not half the Peaks scholar that your regular recapper Jeff Jensen is. (He was already drawing Owl Cave graphs while I was literally learning what graphs were; rest assured, he’ll be back next week.) But I am a Major Briggs fanboy. And although Part 9 was a much more down-to-earth chapter than last episode’s cosmic origin story — people discovered things! — this hour of Twin Peaks was an intriguing progression from the last one. Part 8 described the birth of some sort of evil. Was Part 9 the story of the death of goodness? Perhaps Major Briggs is gone for good. But “gone” is not “forgotten.”
On the Farm
Resurrected from Ray’s gunshot, oddly unchanged despite the woodsmen’s de-BOB-ifying, blood-splattered Mr. Cooper walked a lonely road to a farm. He met two of his sharpest operators. There was Chantal, whom we might remember from Part 2, the woman in the hotel room next to Darya’s. And there was Chantal’s husband, Hutch. The actors were Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who were two of The Hateful Eight, and there’s a sense that the Tarantino stunt-casting is intentional.
They’re a wild pair, the Hutchens couple. Cooper can count on them for anything. They stitched up his wounds. They get him a new car, some guns. Chantal gave him a kiss, and then gave him some Cheetos. He told Hutch, “Kill this phone,” and Hutch shot the phone with a shotgun.
He gave them an assignment. “Warden Murphy. Yankton Federal Prison.” Mr. Cooper isn’t the kind of boss who micromanages: “Kill him at home, at work, or on the way.” And he promised them another assignment: a double-header in Vegas. Can we indulge ourselves, and wonder if that is an embedded joke? A “double-header” — wasn’t that the crime that began this season, in Buckhorn, evidence of two decapitations in the crime scene at Ruth Davenport’s apartment? And could there be another kind of “double-header” in Las Vegas: a meeting of two similar-looking heads, the dark Cooper doppelganger and noble fool Dougie?
Before Hutch killed his phone, Cooper had two final messages to deliver. He sent a text message: “Around the dinner table the conversation is lively.” And he made a phone call to Duncan Todd, once and for all confirming (apparently) that Todd’s been working for Mr. Cooper all along.
“Did you do it?” asked Mr. Cooper.
“Not yet,” Todd said.
“Better be done next time I call.”
So the doppelganger continues to target Dougie. This invites tantalizing questions. Who else can Todd call on to eliminate his target? And just who does Cooper need the Hutchens duo to kill in Vegas? Are they also targeting the Joneses? Or is this the dark Cooper cleaning up after himself — is he sending his most trusted assassins to kill Todd?
One note: This meeting between Cooper and his constituents took place on a farm. We know this, because Hutch said the place was owned by “Farmers.” (They were sleeping out back, and they won’t ever wake up.) I have no idea if this was the Farm mentioned in Part 8, or just a farm. Perhaps all farms in the universe of Twin Peaks are just one single collective farm. Remember that Farmer who disappeared a few episodes ago, right when we first learned that Andy had a Rolex? What was that?
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In Las Vegas
The Detectives Fusco were a bit perplexed by this whole business. A car blows up, and they show up to interrogate the owner at his insurance agency. He barely says anything; his wife does the barking. Then the husband and wife walk outside of the office and get attacked. Now the detectives have got a gun with a whole human palm grafted onto it.
“I’ve never had any trouble with Dougie at all,” Bushnell Mullins explained to them, back at their office at the police department. The boss gave us some intriguing information. Douglas Jones has worked for him for 12 years now. Apparently, Dougie had some kind of car accident not long previous. “Every once in awhile, he shows some… lingering effects,” Mullins teased.
The Fusco Brothers were all done with him. Mullins didn’t quite want to leave. “Damn strange business,” he said, sounding like a literary sleuth in a drawing room. “First his car blows up, and then somebody tries to kill him.” The old fellow flexed his right fist a couple times, and for a moment he became the Battling Bud of yesteryear, the man who was tougher than the rest.
Mullins left, not before promising Dougie that tomorrow they would start getting to the bottom of things. Maybe Mullins thinks he knows something about the problems afflicting Dougie; we recall strange implications of skullduggery within Mullins’ firm, perpetrated by the helplessly Sizemoric insurance agent Anthony.
But Mullins doesn’t know what the cops know. The littlest Fusco has made a strange discovery. There’s nothing on Douglas Jones pre-1997: no driver’s license, no passport, no social security number, no records of any kind. For the Detectives Fusco, this is even more befuddling than the notion of paying $239 for a broken taillight. So they snagged Dougie’s fingerprints off of his used coffee cup and asked for a full workup on the prints and the DNA.
Imagine what kind of red lights will go off when those prints pop up on the database. Could Gordon Cole get an alert and head for Las Vegas with his FBI squad — just in time to meet Chantal, Hutch, and whatever other ungodly monstrosities are chasing Dougie?
There was some good luck for our boys in the Vegas PD. The prints came back from the gun — and they belonged to their old friend, Ike the Spike. “Ike the Spike finally f—ed himself!” they laughed. He’d been tracked to a nearby hotel room, and the police moved in to capture him. Poor Ike was still recovering from his botched assassination job, and he delivered a message to his employer: “No cigar. Taking medical leave.” He’ll have to take that medical leave behind bars. They don’t just have his palm print; they have his whole palm.
Meanwhile, the Slow and Steady Return of Agent Dale Cooper continued, slow and steady. Dougie sat patiently next to Janey-E, and his eyes suddenly focused on something. It was the American Flag, standing curtained and windless in the corner of the corridor. There was a song on the soundtrack, in some distant corner of Dale’s memory: a song about brotherhood, and fruited plains, and a place called America. A blonde woman in red shoes walked by the flag. His eyes followed her, and then returned halfway — not to the flag, but to the electrical socket in the wall. Was Dougie-Dale remembering his curious rebirth into this world? Receiving a message from the cross-dimensional beings who live inside electricity? Suddenly noticing how much the three-pronged electrical outlets look like one face atop another — a double-header?
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In South Dakota
Or rather, “East South Dakota.” That’s the location Gordon and his curious traveling band were flying over when they got a call from Colonel Davis at the Pentagon. Davis had information for Gordon: a dead body in Buckhorn, a Blue Rose case from way back in the 20th century.
Gordon asked Diane nicely: Would she like to come along? “F— you, Gordon, I want to go home,” said Diane. (Diane said “f—,” DRINK!) But when Diane heard about the case — the proximity to Cooper, the Blue Rose factor — she seemed intrigued. Maybe she just wanted to get off the plane; aboard this FBI jet, her phone was blocked from receiving messages. (We know this because when she tried to use her phone, there was a big red box marked BLOCKED in the middle of her phone.)
Gordon received some disturbing information, too, from the Warden at Yankton: “Cooper flew the coop!” But one problem at a time. The Gordon Cole Bunch rode out to Buckhorn to investigate the body. Diane opted to avoid the morgue, nominally because she didn’t feel like seeing a dead body. But when she checked her phone, she had a message: “Around the dinner table, the conversation is lively.” Why is the nefarious Cooper contacting Diane? Is he taunting her? Tantalizing her, like Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, a madman begging a symbol of sanity to hop on the crazy train?
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Diane didn’t tell anyone about the message; it came from a dead number, so perhaps she genuinely didn’t know who sent it. Or perhaps she knows and is seeking her own reckoning with Cooper. Diane’s motivations remain fascinating and mysterious, rooted in some deep abiding horror extending back to that last day she saw Cooper years ago. There’s a strain of thinking about this season of Twin Peaks that Laura Palmer has returned/will return as a vengeful revenant, battling BOB or the Black Lodge or something worse. Maybe Diane’s out for her own vengeance; maybe she just wants to understand what is happening.
Detective Macklay is a veritable font of understanding. He brings the FBI agents up to date on the strange doings here in Buckhorn. The principal having an affair with the librarian. The librarian showing up dead with Major Briggs’ headless body. The principal’s wife turning up dead, killed by her lawyer. The principal’s secretary also dead, a car explosion. “What happens in season 2?” deadpanned Albert, the greatest line of this whole season, R.I.P. Miguel Ferrer.
Some intriguing new information about William Hastings: It turns out he’s a blogger. And not just any blogger. The kind of blogger who tends to post long, heavily researched, densely analytical theories about alternate dimensions. If he wasn’t on Twin Peaks, he’d recap Twin Peaks. Apparently, in his last blog post, he wrote something rather stunning: “We finally entered what we call the Zone and we met the Major.”
Hastings’ blog is an actual website rife with Heinlein references and alternate reality theory. There are also some hidden coordinates — which apparently (if I have managed to input the coordinates correctly) lead to west South Dakota, to a place called Lookout Mountain. As in: “Look out, from here, onto infinity.” Or perhaps: “Look out, everyone! There’s a doppelganger with a bad attitude coming to kill you!”
Albert shamelessly flirted with Constance — she’s a stand-up, so of course she gets his dark humor — and she showed them the ring they found inside Briggs, inscribed, “To Dougie, love Janey-E.” They knew they had to interview William Hastings. But first, they took a break. Diane was outside, smoking a cigarette. Gordon and Tammy walked out to meet her. The whole scene played out in a single shot, over two minutes long: Diane on the lower right, Gordon smiling at the cigarette in her hand, Tammy uncomfortably fidgeting on the left. Seriously, Tammy, are you nervous or something?
This was one of my favorite shots ever in Twin Peaks. I loved the resonance in this shot, director Lynch staring with wonderment and memory at his great collaborator Dern. “We used to smoke together way back when, remember?” “Yeah, we sure did, Gordon.” There’s a lot of life in those lines, and perhaps you could sense Diane warming to a man who used to be her friend. (Or you remembered the text message she received and wasn’t telling him about.) I love the implication that Tammy is intimidated by Diane, or maybe suspicious of her; I continue to wonder if we should be suspicious of Tammy. I love how this season of Twin Peaks grabs moments like this and holds onto them. We’ve got nine hours left, and I selfishly want a thousand more scenes of this kind, and I’m not sure that math adds up.
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The FBI squad assembled while Tammy went in to interview Bill Hastings. She said, “I’m Agent Tammy Preston of the FBI,” and he said, “Oh, gawd, the FBI!!!!” Matthew Lillard was a standout in the season premiere and he delivered a true knockout performance in this episode. He described a trip to the alternate dimension — “But it’s real! It’s all real!” — how Ruth was good at uncovering hidden records, and how if they went to a certain place at a certain time they would make contact with a certain person.
One thinks of Glastonbury Grove, how that certain place at certain times opens a doorway to another place. One thinks also of the coordinates that Evil Cooper has been searching for all season. And it turns out that there was another man searching for those coordinates: Major Briggs. For within the dimension, Bill and Ruth met the long-lost Major. He asked them for important numbers, and they found it — within a secured military database! — and brought Major Briggs the numbers last Thursday.
“These others came in,” Bill said, “and they grabbed me by the neck, and they pushed, they pushed me down and said, ‘What’s your wife’s name? What’s your wife’s name?'”
Hold onto that for a second, because Bill had some other memories. They gave the Major the numbers, and he started to float up. “He said some words — ‘Cooper, Cooper’ — right before his head disappeared.” Bill woke up in his own home, and then next thing he knew, he was accused of murder.
Tammy was searching for some clarity. Did the Major kill Ruth? “No,” Bill said, “There was so many people there.”
What is Bill describing here? Was the Major within some Lodge or other — or was he somewhere else, perhaps a distant room overlooking a purple ocean or a stone throne in the forest? It seems that Major Briggs was “Hibernating,” so we can assume he was hiding from the Cooper doppelganger for all these many years. Who were these “others” who followed Ruth and Bill into this strange place? We can assume that the Evil Cooper was there — remember that voice on the phone, “You met with Major Garland Briggs.” But what did Bill mean, “There was so many people there?” And did Major Briggs’ head disappear because he was attacked by these strange forces? Or was this his final escape — his beautiful brain departing his body, to float through coordinates in deepest space?
Bill’s description of this scene was oddly beautiful — and sad. I found myself wondering: Was this an actual sequence that David Lynch and Mark Frost would have shot if Don S. Davis was still alive when filming started? Or were we meant to receive Bill’s exposition the way early Christians received rumors about the risen Christ: an unlikely and strange story, something you can’t prove with anything but faith? Bill seemed like a man who had seen something he could never describe, something he knew was unbelievable. “It was something like no one had ever seen before!” he promised. “I’ve never read anything like it. You don’t know! You weren’t there!”
Some part of me wants to believe that we will be there, that this sequence Bill described will play out at some future date, outside the normal flow of time; that there were “so many people” there because the entire cast of Twin Peaks was there, perhaps some of them dreaming and some of them scattered across the mortal realms, all of them bearing witness to the transubstantiation of Major Briggs. (This would be a great scene for, like, Part 15, maybe right before a musical number by Lana Del Rey or Mercury Rev.)
Then again, maybe this is an appropriate way for Major Briggs to depart the show, his final moments described by a half-maniac man whose life has fallen into ruin. Poor Bill doesn’t know what’s going on with Lodges or Majors or Dimensions or Coopers. He just knows that he didn’t kill Ruth. “I loved her,” he says. “We were gonna go to the Bahamas! We were gonna scuba dive and drink mixed drinks on the beach! And we were gonna soak up the sun and look at beautiful sunsets!”
He went on and on and on, remembering a life he would never live.
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In Twin Peaks
Or perhaps the good Major lives on. At the Briggs household, the widow Betty welcomed her son Bobby and his co-workers Frank and Hawk. They had questions for her, about Cooper’s visit with the Major 25 years earlier. Betty had an unexpected answer for them. It seems that, on that long-ago day, the Major told his wife that she would be visited by Bobby, Hawk, and one Sheriff Truman or other, and they would ask about Special Agent Dale Cooper.
The day had arrived. She walked over to the Major’s chair. “I can’t believe this day has come,” she said. It put me in mind of the last Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, like she was some immortal guardian who spent lifetimes waiting for this moment.
(Strangely, there was some Chair Talk elsewhere in Twin Peaks this week: a subtle negotiation between Lucy and Andy, about the varying qualities of a red and beige chair. Perhaps the chair is a symbol of something larger within a marriage: a presence that lingers, even when the person who sits there is gone. Or maybe Lynch and Frost think a lot about chairs. Maybe we all should!)
Betty pulled a strange metal cylinder out of the chair. She gave it to them — and she had another message, too, something more personal. “When your father told me this,” Betty told Bobby, “you were a very long way from where you are today. Somehow, he knew that it would all turn out well. He saw this life for you. Your father never lost faith in you.”
We may remember the Bobby Briggs we met when Twin Peaks began: a drug dealer, barely even going to high school anymore, seemingly one perpetual moment away from killing someone. Major Briggs saw something greater in his son all along. A vision, fresh and clear, as a mountain stream…
And now perhaps Bobby has turned out okay. He returns to the Sheriff’s Department with his fellow officers and teaches them how to open that strange cylinder. He HURELD it to the ground, held it up to their ears: It made a single metallic tone. He HURLED it again, and this time it opened, revealing a message from the man himself:
You may recall those triangles. They appear in variations on symbols found in the Owl Cave and on the Green Ring, though here they look rather clearly like a pair of Twin Peaks. Above the left one, a red sun or perhaps a blood moon. Above the right one, that strange symbol we saw on the Dark Cooper’s card, an owl or perhaps the head of the Experiment Demon, a crescent moon upended over it. Are these the two Lodges?
Time for a potentially baseless theory. We know that the dark Cooper doppelganger did not want to go back to the Black Lodge. We also know that he wanted to go someplace represented by that head-with-pointy-ears symbol. Perhaps the Cooper doppelganger wants to go to the White Lodge? Or is there some further-flung location — a space castle in a purple infinite ocean? One thinks of the Giant (or ??????? if you go by the credits) in the first new scene of this revival season: “It is in our house now.” Are these directions to the house?
The message about Jack Rabbit’s Palace was a reference to a place the Major took Bobby: “It was our make-believe world, you know, where we made up stories,” Bobby said, memories glistening in his eyes. The dates on the paper are two days away. The policemen make plans to head in that direction. Bobby can lead the way; he’s not a Major, but he is a Briggs.
There is one more message inside the cylinder, looking reminiscent of the strange data Major Briggs used to collect from outer-space communications: the word “Cooper,” repeated twice.
This was another week without Audrey, but literally every other living member of the Horne family put in an appearance. Jerry’s scene was typically surreal: Still lost in the woods, he was staring with great fear down at his foot. “I am not your foot,” said the foot, with a voice that sounded like a child. Jerry tackled the Strangelove’d limb and seemed to knock himself out. I believe fervently that Jerry is on some kind of spirit journey of momentous (if largely symbolic) importance. He is among the trees, and the trees know something they aren’t telling us.
Meanwhile, Ben Horne and Beverly continued trying to find the source of that strange noise. For a moment, I almost thought it was the same noise that Major Briggs’ metal cylinder made when Bobby threw it on the ground; I double-checked and I don’t think it is, but it’s definitely a strange noise in the same episode, so let’s assume they’re related. Ben described it as similar to “the ring of a monastery bell,” so he’s still got his gift of gab. They seemed about to kiss and then didn’t. “I can’t do this,” Ben said. “I don’t know why it is.”
“You’re a good man, Ben,” Beverly said. That was not the sort of thing anyone would have said about Ben back in the original run of Twin Peaks. Although worth pointing out that Ben Horne’s attempts toward goodness formed a key subplot of season 2. Not the most fondly remembered subplot — it involves pine weasels and surprise-daughters — but it’s rather lovely to see that arc picked up here so many years later, with a Ben who seems genuinely changed.
And again, here in Part 9, we saw an original Twin Peaks character, radically altered with the passage of time. Bobby Briggs, once a wild young man, was now an officer of the peace, the apple of his long-gone father’s eye. And Ben Horne, once a randy oats-spreading master of the universe, respectfully avoided his fiftieth act of cuckoldry. Good? Well, he’s getting better.
But the Hornes faced their own tragedy this week. Poor demented Johnny ran through his house, perhaps let out by someone, perhaps just trying to escape. He ran straight into a wall, knocking down a picture of a waterfall. His mother found him lying, possibly dead. Some eagle-eyed viewers noted this as a running motif: Leland Palmer killed his niece after smashing her face into a mirror; that was where we left the Cooper doppelganger back in the season 2 finale, his own face smashed into the mirror, BOB’s face staring back.
Maybe Johnny just finally decided to end it, after all these sad years. Or maybe there’s something stranger happening here. Is it possible that someone — something — was trying to take him over? Perhaps an entity he once knew in the distant past?
Could it be that Laura Palmer has escaped — and sought refuge inside Johnny Horne’s mind, as BOB once claimed her father?
Holy crap, Sky Ferreira! Tragically not playing any music, though surely “Love in Stereo” or “Boys” would have fit right in on the Bang Bang’s lineup. No, Hudson Mohawke played a strange tune in the background while Ferreira debuted as “Ella.” Ella has problems. She’s got a rash on her left armpit that looks painful. (You may think of MIKE, whose left arm is missing.) Her friend walked up, and they had a whole conversation that seemed oddly coded. Her friend said, “That zebra’s out again.” Ella said she was fired for coming in high, even though all she was doing was “Serving up burgers.” Apparently she’s working across the street, “serving up burgers,” and then they had a good laugh about “that penguin.”
Because this is Twin Peaks and the ghost of Laura Palmer lingers like an undying god-presence over anything that happens, one may wonder if these women are prostitutes, perhaps employed by some Renault or other. Are “the zebra” and “the penguin” both johns? Or is something strange afoot between these two? Seriously, how can you f— up serving burgers?
Au Revoir Simone sang us out of the episode — their second appearance on the show, the first time any band has appeared twice. Guess they were booked for a double-header.
Be sure to check out the new episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks, coming Monday afternoon!