Life after the Laura Palmer mystery begins in Twin Peaks…
Before we get started, some of you might be confused about who the hell I am and what the hell this is doing here. It looks kinda random, I’ll admit, especially this episode is pretty much in the middle of Twin Peaks’ original run. Well, this column just moved here this month(along with me) as a part of FSR’s acquisition of One Perfect Shot. We’re going to go through the whole series to-date as well as Fire Walk With Me, all in an effort to get as many people as possible caught up with the show before it’s long-long-awaited third season debuts next year on Showtime. The head Honcho here has been gracious enough to allow me to continue my obsessed ramblings, so from now on each Tuesday there will be another episode guide. If you want to catch up, you can check out all my posts til now right here.
EPISODE 17: “DISPUTE BETWEEN BROTHERS”
Written by Tricia Brock, Directed by Tina Rathbone
Airdate December 8th, 1990
The episode begins at the Palmer house three days after the death of Leland. Sarah passes on the sedative Doc Hayward offers her because she wants to be clear-headed for Leland’s funeral. Coop is there also and explains to Sarah that Leland did not do these things, not the Leland she knew, at least, he’d fallen prey to one of the world’s dark, unexplainable things and it corrupted him, it used him. Sarah knows this, she knows it was BOB who did all these horrible things, she saw him. Regardless, she says, this knowledge doesn’t bring anyone back from the dead. Coop tells her that Leland renounced his deeds and the pain he caused his family, and then he passed away in peace to visions of Laura. This is little but some comfort.
Following the funeral – which in contrast to Laura’s is not shown onscreen – everyone is at the Palmers’ for a reception: Nadine and Ed, Hank and Norma, The Haywards, Audrey, a healed and rested Dr. Jacoby, Major Briggs, The Mayor Dwayne Milford, Pete…they haven’t allowed the scandal of these tragedies stop them from showing their support for Sarah. That’s small-town living for you. Ed and Donna discuss how James isn’t around because somehow he thinks this is all his fault and took off on his motorcycle to clear his head. Major Briggs asks Coop what he’s going to do now that the case is concluded. Coop says he has some vacation time saved up and now might be the time to cash it in. Briggs invites him nightfishing. Who says no to that? Nadine the 18 year-old in the 35 year-old’s body is concerned her shoes are too reflective and people can see her underpants in them. Ed patiently dissuades this notion. Sarah, conversing with Audrey and Eileen Hayward, is despairing but still lucid, the most so we’ve ever seen her. The Mayor gets in a small brawl with his brother Dougie, who runs the town newspaper. Truman and Ed break it up before either elderly man can be injured. It’s explained that theirs is a long-running and frivolous feud, nothing more than another helping of small-town shenanigans, which are exactly what Coop says he’s going to miss about Twin Peaks, this and everything else going on at the reception, just people being people, and more important, being a community.
At Twin Peaks High School later that day, Ed and Jacoby are negotiating with the assistant principal to get Nadine admitted to the senior class; they think it will help her present mental condition. For some reason, the assistant principal concedes.
Audrey visits Cooper in his room at The Great Northern. She wants to know if he’s leaving. He is. She tries one more time to make a pass at him, but their age difference and their past professional involvement prohibits him. She supposes he must have been hurt by someone once, but he says it’s the other way around: someone was hurt by him and he will not let that happen again. Audrey asks, jokingly, if she died or something. As a matter of fact she did, she was a material witness to a federal crime, and he and his partner, Windom Earle, the man who taught him everything he knows about being an agent, were supposed to protect her. When the attempt on her life was made, Coop says he wasn’t ready because emotion clouded his senses, he loved her, and as a result she died in his arms. In the same attack Coop himself was badly injured, and Earle lost his mind. He wonders if this is enough to satiate Audrey’s curiosity? It is, but Audrey isn’t done growing, so she agrees to table the conversation for a few years, though not before telling Coop the one problem with him: he’s perfect.
Bobby is at Shelly’s trying on one of Leo’s suits for his meeting/blackmail attempt with Ben Horne based on the tape he found in Leo’s boot on which Ben is heard hiring Leo to burn down the mill. Shelly’s got a bad case of cabin fever, all she’s been doing lately is staying in and taking care of Leo. Bobby tells her to just hang in there until this Horne thing is settled and they’re on Easy Street.
Truman enters his office to find Catherine waiting for him in the garb of an LL Bean catalogue model and decidedly not dead. She wants to know if she’s under suspicion for the mill fire. That depends on her answers to his questions, he says. She says she was saved from the fire by angels, a lie, but then tells him the truth about the call she got that night telling her to come to the mill, about seeing Shelly and untying her, then becoming lost in the conflagration of smoke and flames. She doesn’t know how she got out but somehow she found herself in the woods. She grew afraid because it was obvious someone had lured her there with the intention of trying to kill her, so instead of returning home, she just kept going through the forest. At daylight she stumbled across her family’s old summer cabin at Pearl Lakes, led, she reiterates, by her guardian angel. The house was stocked, so she waited there for her would-be killer to find her. But she ran out of food first, so here she is.
In the station lobby, Dick Tremayne has come to talk with Lucy about her baby. He is suddenly very convinced the child is his and is very into the idea of being a father, so much so he has become a mentor to an at-risk youth to help train himself in the ways of child-rearing. Andy overhears this and interjects, says that until it’s known for sure who the biological father is, they should all just try to get along for the sake of Lucy and the baby. Lucy’s torn between the debonair responsibility of Dick and the animal magnetism she feels for Andy. And all this happens on a ladder. Dick and Andy shake hands, and Andy leaves them to talk, but as soon as he gets around the corner Hawk stops him and suggests he’s crazy for not fighting harder for Lucy. But Andy knows what he’s doing – even if it hurts him – because he knows what will ultimately win Lucy’s heart: “moral and manly behavior.” The balance actor Harry Goaz strikes between Andy’s childlike sensitivity and particular sense of masculinity is never more charming than in this scene; if Laura is the soul of Twin Peaks and Cooper is its intellect, dare I suggest that Andy is the heart?
Coop, on his way to go nightfishing with Briggs before leaving town, stops in to say goodbye to Truman. Truman’s made him a going-away present, a fishing lure called a green butt skunk. Coop is enamored with the token, and touched by it. Truman also has a Bookhouse Boy patch for the Special Agent, which makes him an official member. Coop is honored beyond his ability to express himself. It’s a misty-eyed man-moment between these two, the culmination of their bromance until now, a thing comprised of equal parts respect, admiration, trust and healthy skepticism. They brought out the best in one another as men and officers of the law, and there’s never been a partnership like them in all the history of crime procedurals. I weep at the thought of Michael Ontkean not returning for season three. Coop then says his adieus to Hawk – if he’s ever lost, Coop hopes Hawk is the man they send to find him (is this season 3 foreshadowing?) – then Andy – whose bravery is only exceeded by the size of his heart – and finally Lucy – to whose wedding he wants an invitation, no matter who the lucky groom turns out to be. It’s a very Wizard of Oz moment, reminiscent of Dorothy saying goodbye to her travelling companions. Knowing David Lynch’s fascination with this film (see Wild At Heart), this is hardly unintentional. As Coop is about to depart, though, Canadian Mountie Preston King walks in with Agent Roger Hardy of the FBI. Coop knows Hardy, but not why he’s here. Well, it seems that effective immediately, Coop is suspended without pay from the Bureau. Dum-dum-dum…
Three fun facts: Agent Roger Hardy is played by Clarence Williams III, who is most famous for starring in the TV series The Mod Squad alongside Norma Jennings herself, actress Peggy Lipton. And RCMP Preston King is played by Gavan O’Herlihy, whose father Dan O’Herlihy will show up in later episodes as a character whose name would be a spoiler if I said it at this point. Furthermore, the name “Preston King” is actually the real name of Harry Goaz, born Harry Preston King.
Hardy is with the Bureau’s Internal Affairs Division, and the Mountie is there, Coop assumes, because of the trip he made into Canada to rescue Audrey. By not informing the Canadian authorities about their mission, Coop technically committed malfeasance. Hardy says that isn’t all, though: there’s also an allegation about Coop’s methods and motive for rescuing Audrey. Hardy won’t elaborate right now as he’s still waiting on evidence, but he says he and Coop will reconvene in an hour…alone.
Bobby is waiting to see Ben but mostly he’s getting the run-around. Audrey encounters him and tries to figure out what he’s up to. He gives her a little song and dance of his own, but she decides to help him anyway. She says she’ll need ten seconds to get him into see her father; she only takes five. Bobby owes her one but not much of one, because he isn’t in there ten seconds before Ben has him tossed out. In his anger at this mistreatment, Bobby shouts out that there’s more than one copy of the tape he sent Ben. Audrey saves him from the security guys, and in exchange he offers to buy her ice cream. He asks if she wants a cup or a cone. And then comes the most blatantly seductive line of the series: “A cone: I like to lick.” In the wake of the disallowed romantic storyline between Audrey and Cooper, it seems the writers were flirting with the idea of pushing Bobby and Audrey together. Spoiler alert, but this only lasts a couple or few episodes and thankfully goes nowhere. More on the circumstances surrounding this at the end.
Coop and Hardy reconvene. On his first visit to One Eyed Jacks, Coop explains, he went undercover to question Jacques Renault, who dealt blackjack there and who Coop believed had knowledge of Laura Palmer’s death. Hardy interrupts to point out that Coop used this trip to lure Jacques back to the States where he could be arrested and then subsequently killed in the hospital. Leland killed Jacques, and Leland’s dead, so problem solved, Coop thinks. His second trip across the border, as mentioned, was to rescue Audrey. On neither excursion did he alert the Canadian authorities. Coop understands this and he isn’t trying to explain his way out of it, he just wants to know if the Bureau holds him personally responsible for the deaths of Jacques Renault and the people killed in the raid of One Eyed Jacks. Hardy says that’s what they’re trying to figure out. The real problem, however, is that Coop’s rescue mission botched a six-month RCMP investigation into Jean Renault and left them with two dead, no Jean, and none of the cocaine they were using for bait. There’s an implication that the drugs might have disappeared with Cooper and company. Coop knows nothing about the cocaine, but says they’ve miscounted their dead people: there’s Emory Battis (who Jean killed), the bodyguard (who Hawk killed when he was about to kill Coop, Truman, and Audrey) and Blackie (who Jean also killed). They didn’t know about Blackie but that’s fine by them, more trouble to heap on Coop’s already-full plate. Coop cops to the border crossing, but says he didn’t kill anyone, and Roger should know Coop better than to suspect him of being involved in drug trafficking. Roger won’t know anything until Coop proves it…to the DEA, who will be sending an agent within 24 hours. In the meantime, Hardy is going to need Coop’s badge and gun. Dale hands them over. Truman’s up for interrogation next, but as the Sheriff understands it, what with him being a fellow law enforcement authority from a separate organization with its own protocols to follow, they’re going to need extradition papers and a subpoena to get a statement out of him; until they have that, he’s mum, and not politely, either.
Cheerleading tryouts are happening at Twin Peaks High School and Nadine’s up. To put it mildly, she’s an athletic powerhouse.
Shelly’s brushing Leo’s teeth when the phone rings. She knows it’s Bobby but she’s resolved not to answer it because it’s been a whole day with not one word for him. She’s weak, though, and answers the phone anyway but still gives him an earful. As she’s doing so, Leo starts rolling forward in his wheelchair. Shelly notices. Ordinarily movement from within a vegetative state would be a thing to celebrate. In this instance, it is the opposite.
Norma’s taking down all the frills at the diner. The great restaurant reviewer M. T. Wentz has at last spoken, and the words weren’t nice. This gets even harder to take when Norma’s mother Vivian reveals that she’s actually M.T. Wentz. She defends her review by explaining she’s not mean, Norma’s just not a good cook, and standards must prevail, after all. Norma, however, could give a shit about standards. This is her business, her livelihood, and now it’s been threatened and by her own mother, no less. She tells Vivian to hit bricks, not just now but from now on.
Meanwhile, the ladies’ better halves Hank and Ernie are having fun at One Eyed Jacks. They are pulled aside to private quarters by Jean Renault. Jean still thinks Hank is a district attorney thanks to the badge (Daryl Lodwick’s) he found in Hank’s pocket the night of Audrey’s rescue. Hank’s playing the role crooked and using it to his advantage. Hank introduces Ernie as The Professor, his criminal nickname. Jean has a problem he’s been told by Hank that Ernie can handle: he needs 125k cash quick and all he has is a bunch of cocaine; he needs someone to broker a sale. Ernie can sort that out for them. Jean then has a man bring in the suitcase of drugs. The man is King, the Mountie, and the cocaine is that which disappeared during the raid. So the Mountie’s in on framing Cooper. Hank and Ernie leave, but Jean and King continue talking. Seems the real plan is that four of the five kilos they have are to be sold, and the fifth is to be planted in Coop’s car. If Jean can’t kill the Special Agent, he’ll at least ruin him.
Truman is awakened in the night by a noise outside his house. He gets his gun. The noise is Josie, bruised and dirtied, crying and barely able to stand.
The episode ends bucolically with Briggs and Coop by a campfire after fishing. The men wax poetical about the various forms of evil and darkness, and how all man can do is react to them. Most do so with fear, Briggs says, but Coop was blessed with special gifts, and he is not the only one. Briggs then asks if Coop has ever heard of the White Lodge. Coop has not, but he’s intrigued. Something is sneaking up on them through the brush. Coop takes a break to drain the main vein, but says he looks forward to hearing more about this White Lodge. Briggs gives a wink and a thumbs up reminiscent of the elderly bellboy at The Great Northern. Coop is urinating on a tree. Directly above him, an owl hoots. Then a blinding white light comes through the trees. Briggs begins calling for Coop. The silhouette of a third someone, hooded it seems, is seen against the light. Cooper comes running back but the light, the silhouette, and Briggs have all vanished.
This episode is the first of two during the series’ original run to be both written and directed by women, Tricia Brock and Tina Rathborne, respectively. Brock is primarily now a television director, having worked on other acclaimed series like Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, The Walking Dead, and Mr. Robot. She would write one other episode of Twin Peaks, episode 23, which many consider to be the episode that picks up the series out of its second season slump (conversely, many also consider this episode to have started said slump). This is Rathborne’s second and final episode as director; she last helmed episode three.
In many ways this is a hinge episode where Twin Peaks swings from its primary storyline – the murder of Laura Palmer – into its next storyline, which you might have noticed is a little fractured and unrealized as yet. That’s because the plan for the second season had always been to bridge the narrative gap between Laura and Windom Earle with a Cooper-Audrey romance. Everything else that’s going on – the Bobby/Shelly/Leo triangle, the Bobby-Ben Horne blackmail, Norma’s mother troubles, Ernie and Hank helping Jacques, Nadine’s head injury, the Mildford dispute, et cetera – was always intended to be background, just side-plots to balance out the main narrative. But when the romantic storyline was vetoed by MacLachlan, these side-plots were all the writers were left with. So the next six episodes are not the series’ finest, but they’re also not as off-putting as people like to pretend they are. Sure, there’s a main thread missing, but the fabric of Twin Peaks is still intact and in fact a lot of the seemingly mundane stuff that will happen over the next half-dozen hours actually informs the final seven hours, which are phenomenal.
As case in point take the scene towards the beginning of the episode with Audrey and Cooper in his room at The Great Northern. Though it fails to give us what we really want – some hot smooching – the scene is the most revelatory of the episode. By Coop recounting the story of his lost love for the first time, albeit not completely, he sets up the next mystery: who was she? Why was she in danger? Who from? And why did her death make Cooper’s partner, Earle, lose his mind? This story also makes perfectly clear what Cooper’s greatest fear is: someone he loves being hurt as a result of his own actions. This might seem like a passing note of virtue here, but in the episodes to come it will take on increasing importance.
Episode 17 is the Rubicon of Twin Peaks: you either crossed it or you didn’t. Sadly, most people did not, and this is when the ratings start to drastically and steadily drop. But that also makes this the defining line between Twin Peaks’ fans and Twin Peaks’ fanatics. This was never television for the casual viewer, but now it has become niche, directed at a thinner audience who wants more than to just watch, they want to engage, they want to be challenged, and they want to be surprised. This thinning wasn’t intentional of course, no doubt the writers, producers and actors wanted to keep their larger audience, but this is what happened, and I think ultimately all of us will agree that Twin Peaks is a show better celebrated by the few and the informed than by the masses at large, as this exclusivity allowed the show to defy industry and narrative expectations, which for better or worse is exactly what it went on doing.
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