Windom Earle makes a giant move in his chess match with Coop…
(If you need to catch up, you can check out all my posts til now right here.)
EPISODE 26: “VARIATIONS ON RELATIONS”
Written by Mark Frost & Harley Peyton, Directed by Jonathan Sanger
Airdate April 11th, 1991
The episode opens with Coop, Truman, Andy and Hawk returning to Owl Cave for further exploration of the petroglyph they discovered last episode, but when they get there they find someone’s already done the work for them. Part of the wall has crumbled away, revealing an even larger, more detailed petroglyph than they originally found. Hawk notices a boot print in the dirt and says it matches the one he found outside the power station the night it exploded, which means the person who was here and who unearthed this larger petroglyph was Earle. The image itself looks like a map with mountains that have swirling vortices inside them, and trees arranged in a circle. There are also a pair of figures, one giant and one very small, standing next to each other. Coop tells Andy to work up a large-scale drawing of it.
At that very moment, Earle is back at his cabin hidden in the woods telling Leo about the White Lodge, “a place of great goodness” where animals and spirits frolic together. He makes it sound basically like a naturalist’s heaven where the souls of man and beast, indeed all living things, are in perfect harmony, which of course is disgusting to Earle, all that unhindered goodness and overflowing well-being. Fortunately, though, there is an opposite place, he says, a Black Lodge, a place of unimaginable power full of dark forces and vicious secrets. The spirits there are malevolent and violent and if harnessed can offer a vast power to whoever summons them, a power that can shape the world to their will. Earle says he intends to find this Black Lodge, and he intends to have its power. Turns out Leo isn’t alone in the audience, there’s a long-haired metalhead in the cabin too (played by Ted Raimi, Sam’s brother) who was lured here by the promise of a party and beer. He’s not sure what all this means but as Earle attempts to soothe him with some lovely flute music, we see a picture of the petroglyph on Earle’s computer, one step ahead of Coop.
Pete is at home simultaneously plotting his next move in the chess match with Earle, and crafting poetry in Josie’s memory. Catherine comes in looking for a hand opening the box Eckhardt had Jones give her after his death; she’s been trying for days to get into it but can’t figure how. Pete realizes it’s a puzzle box, which means the trick to opening it is to fit the pieces together just so. She wants to know how long it will take to figure out. He says by design, it could take years.
At the diner, Bobby is talking to Shelly about their future. He says the secret of success has at last occurred to him: beautiful people get whatever they want. And Shelly is very beautiful. So he wants her to enter the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. She’s not really into the idea but Bobby wasn’t asking, he wants her in it so she’s going to be in it. Across the room, Lana is talking about the very same thing with her husband, Mayor Milford, but unlike Shelly, she’s very into the idea, so much so she wants Milford’s help. He thinks she means by way of coaching her, but she means by way of rigging the pageant in her favor, as he’s on the judging committee. He’s wary of course, but she’s a temptress and a sexual dynamo to boot, so there’s not really much resistance he can offer. Then Coop swings by to grab coffee and donuts for the gang, and to very formally ask Annie if she would like to accompany him on a nature study that afternoon. It’s pretty cute how nervous he is. She of course accepts. Shelly mumbles the last line of the poem Earle sent her (and Donna and Audrey) and Coop overhears it, he knows it. Shelly spills the details and Coop says he needs to see this poem immediately. Shelly has her piece in her purse and gets it for him, explaining how each girl got her own section. Coop, very serious now, says he needs to keep her piece.
In the privacy of the Sheriff’s office, Coop lets Truman in on the poem, the girls it was sent to, and the person who he knows sent it. It seems Coop himself had once sent the very same poem to another lovely lady, Caroline, Earle’s dead wife. Therefore he thinks this is a threat of some sort. Hawk shows up with Donna’s piece of the poem, says Audrey’s out of town with hers. As he’s leaving, Coop asks Hawk to bring him Leo’s arrest record.
In the conference room, Major Briggs is watching Andy draw the petroglyph on the chalkboard. Briggs knows this image. Coop enters, says they need Briggs’ help, but they can’t say why. This doesn’t bother the Major. What a badass. Coop says they currently have three investigations open in Twin Peaks: the disappearance of Leo Johnson, the whereabouts of Windom Earle, and the discovery of the Owl Cave petroglyph. Coop thinks all three are related. He needs from Briggs everything there is to know about Earle’s time with Project Blue Book. Briggs can tell him plenty, but he has a few moral considerations first. He asks if the info will prevent loss of life. Yes. He then asks if the drawing on the board is the Owl Cave petroglyph. It is. Briggs has dreamt of it, and a flash of this dream involving the silhouette of a hooded figure (last seen before Briggs disappeared while nightfishing with Coop), an owl, and a bit of fire convinces him: he’ll do as Coop has asked. Hawk brings in Leo’s arrest report. After closely analyzing the handwritten statement it contains, Coop concludes the poem sent by Earle was transcribed by Leo. As they already knew Earle had been in Owl Cave by his bootprint, this bit of info about Leo connects all of the open investigations.
Dick Tremayne’s nose is still bandaged from the pine weasel attack at the fashion show two episodes back. He’s at The Great Northern waiting to see Ben because he can’t find Audrey, who’s supposed to be coordinating with him about a wine-tasting benefit to be held there that evening. Ben informs him she’s out of town and directs him to the concierge. Ben does offer to pay for medical expenses regarding Dick’s nose, seeing as it happened at his hotel, at an event he sponsored, and Dick attempts to exploit this generosity by finagling some worker’s comp out of it as well (Ben’s also his employer at the department store). It pushes Ben’s resolve against doing bad to its limits, but he grants this as well.
Earle, aproned and dirty, pops a bottle of beer for Leo to take to the metalhead, now willingly incased in a giant papier mache chesspiece, a pawn to be precise. Dude’s all for helping out, he’s just not sure how he’s supposed to get out of this thing. That’s when Earle produces a crossbow, tells the metalhead he’s not supposed to get out of it, and asks Leo for an arrow. Leo, though, refuses. This is too evil even for him, apparently. So Earle fiddles with Leo’s shock collar until he complies. Earle loads the arrow, then after an eloquent speech on the afterlife, kills the metalhead.
The Miss Twin Peaks rules committee – Doc Hayward, Mayor Milford, and Pete – are meeting at The Road House for the pageant sign-up. Ben has asked to address them. He wants to convince them to class-up the pageant a little bit by incorporating all of a woman’s beauty, not just physical but mental, spiritual, and moral as well. This is pretty weird coming from a whoremonger, but they hear him out. He says the pageant needs a theme, and that theme should be how to save our forests. Pete of course mentions Ben’s opposition to Ghostwood as a possible motivation for wanting such a theme, but Ben says the issue is much bigger than that, and leaves with them taking his idea under advisement. As he goes, he stops by a table where Bobby sits with Shelly and Donna to remind the boy of a chore. On his way out, his vision lingers ever so slightly on Donna, but enough she notices.
The pageant registration begins, and Shelly is all nerves, especially about the public speaking aspect. Nadine and Mike show up amidst this, she’s signing up too. Bobby and Mike break away to chat, something they haven’t done in a while because Mike’s been preoccupied with Nadine. Bobby ribs him about dating a fossil, but Mike counters with a one-two punch of Nadine’s sexual maturity and superhuman strength that sufficiently KOs Bobby’s kidding.
Truman is so desperate to understand Josie that he’s gone to Catherine looking for any information on why she did what she did. Catherine thinks Josie learned early how to survive by being a chameleon, whatever people wanted her to be; the girl was more lies than truth and she believed them all. But there may be a clue from Josie’s past that could benefit them both: the puzzle box. Pete returns home and in attempting to help them he accidentally drops the box, which opens it. But all that’s inside is another box with a clock of moon phases and symbols on its face.
Coop and Annie are in a rowboat on a lake on a beautiful afternoon. They’re gently delving into her past. She mentions a high school boyfriend. Coop asks if the guy had anything to do with her entering the convent, and she backs off, so he does as well. All she’ll say is that she’s done hiding from the world, it’s why she came home, to face the fear of her past failures. Coop takes her hands and lovingly traces the scars on her wrists with his fingertips. She admits she cut herself because of that boyfriend. He can relate to the feeling because of Caroline, and maybe also because of this similar experience he can help her with feelings like that. They kiss, then row ashore and leave hand in hand. Earle sees all of this through binoculars, and it pleases him in a most sinister way.
The wine-tasting benefit has begun. Dick is hosting, Lana and Lucy are pouring, and Andy is among the tasters. Dick’s nose bandage soaks up some of the red wine when he takes in its bouquet.
Gordon Cole is at the diner regaling Shelly with normal-volume stories of his exploits (we remember her voice is the only sound he can hear without mechanical aid) when Coop and Annie arrive. Side note: these scenes between David Lynch and Madchen Amick are so much fun to watch. He’s never been more playful and her affection/admiration of him is so genuine. It really speaks to the family atmosphere behind the scenes of TWIN PEAKS, and the very real gratitude all the cast and crew had for the show’s creators. These scenes are happy pockets among the plot’s mounting darkness. Anyway, Cole’s on his way out of town and asks the new couple to join him and Shelly for a whole lot of pie. While doing so, he musters the courage to tell Shelly if he doesn’t kiss her before he leaves he’ll regret it all of his days. Shelly obliges him with a chaste smooch, but Bobby walks in on it, and he is not pleased. He wants to know what the heck is going on, and Gordon, unaware of who Bobby is to Shelly, tells him it’s a tender moment between two adults and he should keep looking cuz it’s going to happen again. And it does. So awesome.
Later, Coop is enjoying his nightly glass of warm milk by the fireplace in The Great Northern lobby when he is joined by a lovelorn John Justice Wheeler. The two men discuss the perils and peaks of love, JJW on the former and Coop on the latter. They’re both at the beginning of what could be beautiful things, and both looking forward with varied perspectives. JJW is delivered a telegram and whatever it contains causes him to immediately prepare for departure.
At the Hayward dinner table, Donna flat out asks her mom how she knows Ben Horne. Doc jumps in with the cover story about charity work, but Donna counters with the roses that were sent to mom without a card. Mom tries to distract her with peas and Donna plays along with talk of entering the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, but when asked why, she says she wants the money for studying overseas, a not-so-veiled threat to abandon her parents if their secrets hurt her.
Coop’s been called to a strange occurrence at the gazebo by the lake where he was earlier with Annie: a giant wooden crate has been placed in it. Truman thought it was a bomb, but it isn’t ticking. On the box there is a large ring tied to a rope and a sign that says “Pull Me.” Coop knows this is the work of Earle, just as he knows Earle is adjusting his game to the adjustments Coop is making, meaning his foe has become unpredictable. Coop has everyone back away and uses a rock, crime scene tape, and his new gun to pull the ring from a safe distance. The box opens and inside is the completed chess piece, a pawn, with the dead metalhead inside and a note around it all that reads, “Next time it will be someone you know.”
Jonathan Sanger directed the episode, his first and only of the series. Primarily a producer, Sanger knew Lynch from The Elephant Man, which he helped put together. He would later direct an episode of Lynch/Frost’s short-lived On The Air series. For having to jump in at such a complex place, Sanger does a fine job making his episode fit seamlessly into the aesthetic and narrative. Helping this latter regard, the narrative, is the fact that the episode was co-written by Mark Frost, marking the first time his name has appeared on a teleplay since episode 16, the one where Leland dies. There’s a lot of mythology and set-up for the finale in this episode, and he and Harley Peyton do an excellent job juggling all the storylines that are up in the air while simultaneously stopping them from colliding in confusing ways. There’s a renewed atmosphere to Twin Peaks in this episode, and it is one that will remain with the series for the next four hours.
But don’t be mistaken, it’s not going to be a happy ending. Things are getting pretty dark. At this point we all know Earle is going to try and do something terrible to Annie, and each episode he seems to get a little crazier, which only broadens the horrors of which he’s capable. To top it all off, he’s now actively seeking the nefarious power of the Black Lodge, you know, the place that made BOB. The kind of visceral terror this knowledge provokes in the viewer hasn’t existed since the height of the Laura Palmer storyline. Something heinous is coming, maybe the worst thing yet. Like Coop and the connection between the Lodge and Earle, we just can’t see it yet, but we can feel it.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: Perspectives on Twin Peaks
Alas, there was another feeling that Twin Peaks fans acquired the day this episode aired: anguish. After this episode the series was officially cancelled. ABC would allow the last episode in April to air as scheduled, but after that the network would push what were now the final two episodes of the series to summer, after May sweeps. Furthermore, as the series had already finished shooting those final episodes a month before this announcement, there would be no chance to tie up any storylines, even the ones still starting up like Ben’s rebirth and possible relation to Donna, Audrey and JJW’s burgeoning love, Coop and Annie’s, The Ghostwood struggle etc., not to mention whatever was set to unravel in the three remaining episodes. The rest was silence. What was done was done and would now serve as a coda for better or worse.
But only for 25 years or so…