There’s something in the woods…
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 19: “THE BLACK WIDOW”
Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, Directed by Caleb Deschanel
Airdate January 12th, 1991
Bobby Briggs pays Ben Horne another visit to try and blackmail him using the audio tape on which Ben is heard hiring Leo to burn down the mill. Ben however has sunken further into his state of shabby mental disarray following his arrest and the usurpation of his business assets by Catherine. This disarray is best represented by a tall, teetering stack of objects from Ben’s office that he has erected on his desk. Ben asks Bobby bluntly what he wants. A job, that’s all. So Ben gives him one following Hank and chronicling his movements. Upon leaving, Bobby sees Dougie’s young new bride Lana running down the hall screaming.
Coop – now out of his typical black suit and dressed in more environ-friendly attire like a flannel and cargo pants – is picking out property to possibly purchase in Twin Peaks. In trying to decide which house to have the Realtor (Irene) show him first, he flips a coin. It lands on a particular file that the Realtor thought she’d taken out, a place quaintly named Dead Dog Farm that she further describes as a puzzle and a place where no one who moves in ever stays too long. Coop, of course, would like to see it immediately.
Dick Tremayne shows up at the Sheriff’s station on his way to take Little Nicky on a camping trip. There, he meets with Lucy, Andy, and Nicky’s case manager from Happy Helping Hands (played by a pre-SNL Molly Shannon). She’s there to let them (all, apparently) in on Nicky’s background. Why this wasn’t done before the boy was paired with an adult is unknown. Seems Little Nicky has been plagued by “persistent random misfortune” most of his life, which has caused him to bounce from foster home to foster home. He’s an orphan, you see, his parents were killed. Dick’s curious how they died? Under mysterious circumstances, that’s all they know. This meeting is interrupted when Andy is called away by Truman for an emergency at The Great Northern.
That emergency is Dougie Milford, dead in his wedding bed. If the lovemaking guide and other similar texts strewn about the room are any indication, it would seem that Dougie’s heart couldn’t keep up with his libido. The Mayor arrives to see his brother. Though their relationship was contentious in life, in the wake of Dougie’s death Dwayne is heartbroken and crestfallen. As for Dougie’s new bride Lana, Dwayne considers her his brother’s assassin and tells her so, then calls her a witch. Hawk doesn’t like to hear such talk aimed at a lovely young lady, but Lana tells him the Mayor is right, she’s cursed, Dougie isn’t the first man to get hurt in her loving embrace. Hawk tries to comfort her, and impress her. The first part goes okay, but the second part, not so much.
At Twin Peaks High School, the wrestling coach is introducing Nadine as the newest member of the team. It’s groundbreaking, he knows, but she has a right to compete the same as any of the guys on the team. Coach asks for his top wrestler, Mike Nelson, to come forward. Nadine proves she’s the new alpha by taking him down several times, but retains her feminine side by asking him out. She eventually ends the match by bench pressing him, tossing him to the ground, and pinning him. She still wants an answer about that date, though.
Later, looking pretty stiff and banged up, Mike approaches his ex, Donna. He needs her help, because the only thing worse than Nadine’s aggression is her affection. He wants Donna to pretend she’s still his girlfriend or he’s afraid he’s going to end up in traction.
Outside of Twin Peaks, James is still staying at Evelyn’s house while he “fixes her car.” He meets her brother Malcolm, who is also Evelyn’s husband’s driver. Malcolm’s a bit of a tipsy louse and an obvious cad, and he goes on about how Evelyn getting married changed both their lives for the better, even if she has to deal with a little physical abuse now and again from the old man. There’s a cycle at play between Evelyn and her husband, he says, where every couple of weeks Jeffrey gives her a thorough beating, and in exchange she gets back at him by destroying one of his precious things. This time it was the car James is working on. This is a lot of info for a guy to give in the first 60 seconds you meet him, but that’s a pointless expository scene for you.
Dead Dog Farm is a dilapidated shithole. The Realtor says only the best and the worst are attracted to the place, and most end up turning away; only the purest of heart can feel its pain. This is before, you know, she tells him the square footage of the place, or how many bedrooms it has. In Twin Peaks, apparently, even the real estate is cryptic. Coop asks if she’s shown the place to anyone else recently. Not this year, she says. That’s odd, because he notices three fresh sets of tire tracks in the drive: a jeep, a four-wheeler, and a luxury sedan. Furthermore, the front door is unlocked. There’s no one inside but Coop can tell there’s been a meeting there in the last few hours because there’s a full ashtray on the kitchen table and baby laxative in the sink. His conclusion? Someone was cutting cocaine here.
Dick Tremayne is attempting to change a flat on his Mercedes and has the car jacked up, but Little Nicky’s in the driver’s seat messing with stuff. Dick orders him out of the car. Nicky obliges and Dick goes back to changing the tire but then suddenly the car falls off the jack, almost crushing Dick. This sets off the waterworks in Nicky because he’s afraid Dick will die like others Nicky has been placed with. Dick is, too, no doubt remembering the phrase “persistent random misfortune.”
Coop is introduced by Truman to Colonel Riley, the investigator sent by the Air Force to look into Major Briggs’ disappearance. Riley wants to know if Coop noticed any wildlife in the area when Briggs went missing, specifically owls. In fact yes, Coop heard and saw one just before. Truman wants Riley to cut to the chase, Briggs is a friend, and Coop tells him they already know about the monitors and the messages from space pertaining to Coop. Riley says he’s got it half-right: the monitors are pointed into space, but the messages they got about Coop came from the Ghostwood Forest; where or to whom these messages were going is another, unanswered question. Coop wonders if this has anything to do with the White Lodge? That, naturally, is classified. Truman still needs more to go on. All Riley can say is that Briggs’ disappearance has implications that go so far beyond national security, they make “the Cold War seem like a case of the sniffles.”
James has Evelyn’s engine purring again. He brings up with her the conversation he had with Malcolm earlier. He tries to get to the truth, but she won’t answer his questions, so instead they kiss. Evelyn at least admits that she’s afraid of her husband, but says she can’t leave him. They kiss again. Then her husband Jeffrey pulls into the drive, and Evelyn goes to greet him.
Bobby runs into Audrey at The Great Northern as he’s handing over photos of Hank to Ben. They continue their burgeoning flirtation, with Bobby even being bold enough to suggest a celebration later, just the two of them. Audrey however has other ideas about their coupling: she thinks they should go into business together. He tries to kiss her. She evades. Then he goes into Ben’s office and she goes into her crawlspace between the walls to eavesdrop. Ben has set up a scale model of Gettysburg and is fighting the battle move by move, dressed in the coat of a Confederate General. Bobby shows him the pictures of Hank. Ben is pleased.
Pete and Catherine are popping champagne, celebrating their victory over Ben. Josie is in her maid’s uniform being politely derided by Catherine. Pete tries to get his sister to go easy on her, but Catherine’s pissed because Josie had a hand in Andrew’s death (or rather the attempt, as both she and we know as of last episode that Andrew is still alive) and in turn stole the mill from her. Pete can’t believe that, not about his beloved Josie. Catherine doesn’t care if he believes her or not, she’s on her high horse about vanquishing her enemies.
Coop is talking to Diane. His response to Windom Earle’s opening chess move was just printed in the personal column of a nationally-distributed newspaper left unnamed. However, Coop has already received a response, he received it yesterday in fact, which means that Earle perfectly predicted his move. This also means that Earle is toying with him and hiding his real plan. Coop talks about the property he saw and how a man could settle down and have a family there. He’s fully invested in Twin Peaks, even if “this bucolic hideaway is filled with secrets” that may be connected to his current legal troubles, which if they aren’t resolved in his favor could lead to serious jail time. Audrey knocks at his door. She has the photos Bobby took of Hank, she stole them from her dad and thinks Coop needs to see them: Hank, Ernie, Jean Renault and RCMP King meeting at Dead Dog Farm. This could be exactly the exonerating evidence he needs. Then Denise shows up. Audrey is more impressed with the fact that there are female agents than she is aware that Denise isn’t entirely female. She’s so bolstered by this moment of female empowerment, in fact, that she boldly plants a firm wet one on Coop’s lips before skedaddling. Coop shows Denise the photos as well as cocaine samples he took from the Farm, and assumes the latter will be a match to that found in his car. Denise is very pleased with Coop’s innocence and everything, but would much rather talk about the young hottie who just smooched the Special Agent. An important social moment here, as Coop says he wouldn’t have expected Denise was still interested in women. This is, according to my research, the first time a transgender character appears on television on a major, recurring role, and also the first instance on TV of someone clarifying that being transgender doesn’t necessarily equate to being homosexual. Coop doesn’t really get it, but at least it was said.
Ed’s at the diner, bummed out and bending Norma’s ear about plans versus life. They hold hands and she talks of making new plans, both of them completely unaware that Hank is around the corner watching them.
Dick returns to the Sheriff’s station, not to see Lucy, but Andy. He needs a word, he thinks there’s a problem with Little Nicky. Problem is, he thinks the kid’s homicidal, and possibly the devil. This creates the single worst moment in TWIN PEAKS history, a moment so jarring and out of place it should be slapped. Andy produces a freaking thought bubble of Little Nicky in a red devil costume with fake flames flickering around him. Seriously. Adam Sandler’s LITTLE NICKY was better than this moment, and that movie is terrible. At least this is brief, as Dick pops the bubble by stressing that they need to find out the truth about what really happened to Little Nicky’s parents.
Doc Hayward has the results of Dougie Milford’s autopsy and is telling brother Dwayne that he died of natural causes. Dwayne asks if the good doctor checked for signs of witchcraft, which of course he did not. Dwayne wants to press charges against Lana anyway, he says she killed Dougie with sex. Truman can’t arrest her for that. So Dwayne says he’ll sue her civilly to make sure she doesn’t get any of Dougie’s money. He storms off as quickly as an old man can. Hearing he’s gone, Hawk pops out of the coffee room with the Widow Milford – in a skin-tight, eye-catching black dress – looking for some whisky to put in her warm milk. Dick, Truman, Andy and Doc all gawk; Dick even recites poetry at the sight of her. Sometime later, Lucy gets a call for Truman but can’t find him, or anyone for that matter. She goes looking and finds all the men and the Widow Milford having a ball in the Sheriff’s office. All the men are enamored, while Lucy is just pissed
Ernie’s eating chicken at the diner when Denise sits down at his table. She says she has proof Ernie’s broken parole, and unless he does what she says, he’s going to go away for a very long time. Cut to Ernie confessing on the record to being hired to find a buyer for the drugs for Jean Renault and RCMP King. He says he was physically threatened by them, his wife was too, and that’s why he did it, but no one believes that. Denise asks if he’s found a buyer yet. He says no, but she says yes he has, her, and tells him to set up a meet at the Farm tomorrow. Looks like we got us a good, old-fashioned sting operation.
James wakes in the night to the sound of shouting and glass breaking in the main house. Malcolm comes in and confirms it’s Jeffrey wailing on Evelyn. He plants the idea of killing Jeffrey.
Bobby comes home during a thunderstorm to find his Mom waiting up, sitting alone in the dark and missing the Major. She’s not sure he’ll come back this time. Bobby recalls the conversation he and the Major had at the Double R about Bobby’s future and his happiness. He says it was nice between them then, and Bobby and Betty both agree that Garland is an exceptional man. Then the power goes out. And the Major appears in the shadows wearing a bomber jacket, a white scarf, and aviator goggles. He asks how long he’s been gone. Two days, he’s told. He says it seemed much shorter. He and Betty embrace, and he tells Bobby to put out that cigarette and fix him a strong cocktail. When Bobby leaves the room, Betty asks Garland if everything is all right. He says no, not exactly.
Caleb Deschanel returns to direct his third and final episode of the series, off a script from Harley Peyton and Robert Engels. It’s a shame, somewhat, because though this isn’t the weakest of the second-season slump, it is the weakest of Deschanel’s episodes, the other two being episode six, just before the season one finale, and episode 15, the one right after Leland kills Maddie. Still, as mentioned, it’s far from the weakest in this weak stretch, thanks largely to the increasing mythology and importance of the Black and White Lodges, and the ramping up of the Windom Earle storyline, which will be the dominant narrative of the remaining episodes. As for the other plot involving Coop, this drug-trafficking nonsense, the whole thing turns out to be much ado about nothing as an obvious solution presents itself without Cooper even really having to go look for it, the chance for absolution just sort of falls in his lap. If it wasn’t for the character of Denise and the performance of Duchovny, this storyline would be largely pointless, in my opinion, but it’s far from the most egregious in the episode. I don’t know about you, but at this point I’m pulling for Little Nicky to just kill Dick Tremayne.
But the return of Briggs is another sort of return, a return of focus. These middle episodes are what they are and what they are now is winding down, with the Black Lodge/Windom Earle story moving into the spotlight, and therein lies some of the most intriguing aspects and episodes of Twin Peaks yet.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: Perspectives on Twin Peaks
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