The penultimate chapter…
(If you need to catch up, you can check out all my posts til now right here.)
EPISODE 28: “MISS TWIN PEAKS”
Written by Barry Pullman, Directed by Tim Hunter
Airdate June 10th, 1991
Before we start, try and imagine what it felt like on June 10th, 1991 if you were a die-hard Twin Peaks fan: it was the best of days and the worst of days. The best because after nearly two months of being abruptly forced to wait, you were finally going to see the last two episodes of the series, but therein is the worst of it: these were the last two episodes of Twin Peaks ever, and there was no certainty whatsoever that there would ever be more. No one knew about Lynch’s plans for a movie, no one back then was picking up other people’s cancelled TV shows, and one letter writing campaign had already succeeded in resurrecting the show but failed to bring with it new viewers to keep the show alive. This was it, the deal was done, there were only two nails left to hammer into the coffin, and they were about to air back-to-back. Even now, watching for my sixth or so cycle, knowing there’s Fire Walk With Me, knowing – for the very first time – that there is indeed a season 3 on the horizon and that the story isn’t over, I still feel a mix of sadness and dread on the precipice of these last two episodes. This ending wasn’t meant to be, as the path to here hadn’t been given the chance to unfold at the pace with which the creators wanted. But this was the ending we had, at the time, and it made for two of the most interesting, and certainly the trippiest hours of the entire series. Let’s get started, shall we?
Leo Johnson and Major Briggs are still prisoners of Windom Earle. Leo, however, manages to get a hold of the keys to Briggs’ shackles when their captor is away. He can’t free himself, but sets the Major loose with one imperative: “Save Shelly.” He’s an asshole, that Leo, but not through and through, here at his worst he’s at his best. Earle returns and discovers Briggs gone. But more worrisome: there’s something different about the man. His face is paler, his eyes redder, his teeth and mouth and tongue black as night. He looks, in short, like a demon. Instead of punishing Leo, he suggests instead they play a new game…
At the Double R diner Norma is encouraging about the chances both Annie and Shelly have of being crowned Miss Twin Peaks. She says this is an important day for the town in a very important year; a lot of healing from Laura’s murder could start today and it would be nice to see one of her girls up there representing that new beginning. Of course, neither she nor anyone else knows that Earle’s plan is to execute the Queen, so careful there what you wish for, Norma. It’s brought up that the reason Norma is one of the judges this year is because it’s the 20th anniversary of her own crowning at the very first Miss Twin Peaks pageant. When Shelly remarks that Norma could still win today, she ain’t kidding. Hubba hubba, Ms. Lipton.
Ben Horne finds daughter Audrey waiting for him in his office. Their moods are opposed: he’s reading up on the great religions of the world as part of his continuing evolution, and she’s lovelorn over John Justice Wheeler, the man who deflowered her then fled the continent. Ben is actually a positive father figure here and comforts his daughter in her moment of despair. When it passes, she updates him on her trip to Seattle: she learned there that the Packards are using a Savings and Loan to funnel money into the Ghostwood development, but it’s being done real hush-hush because the bank doesn’t want bad publicity from the pine weasel protest. If that’s what they’re trying to avoid, then that’s exactly what Ben will give them, and he asks Audrey again if she’s given any thought to entering the pageant and becoming the face of their protest. She thinks little of such contests, and isn’t interested. Ben pushes through her resistance and paints a picture of an educated and intellectual Miss Twin Peaks who could rebuke and obliterate the very standards by which Audrey is appalled. Unfortunately, she’s now considering it.
Coop and Truman are watching Andy, who’s been staring at the drawing of the petroglyph on the chalkboard all day. People are still on the lookout for Major Briggs, but Coop knows Earle had something to do with his disappearance because of their connection through Project Blue Book. Truman wonders what Earle would want Briggs for, and Coop speculates aloud, much to the glee of Earle, who’s listening via the bug in the bonsai tree on Truman’s desk. Coop says Earle’s been looking for the Lodge a long time, since 1965, which means this chess game he’s playing has more pieces than they might have originally considered. There’s also the question of Josie’s mysterious death. This especially piques Truman’s curiosity. Coop believes Josie died of fear, and reveals that the night she died he saw BOB. He believes these things are connected and that BOB was drawn back into their world by the absolute, pure fear Josie was feeling in the moment she expired. Furthermore, Coop has deduced that BOB comes from The Black Lodge, or what the locals call “the evil in these woods;” if it’s the power of The Black Lodge that Earle is after, like Coop thinks it is, then they have to get there first. But little does Dale know he’s just solved the last piece of the puzzle for Earle. Earle already knows where The Black Lodge entrance is thanks to the petroglyph, and he knows when the lock will appear thanks to Briggs’ drugged revelation about Jupiter and Mars last episode, but now, thanks to Coop, he knows the key – fear. Earle’s appearance has returned to normal, but his soul is more corrupt than ever. He’s off to collect his queen, whoever she may be, and start the final mechanisms of this monstrous machine. As if the moment weren’t sadistic enough, Earle declares he hasn’t felt this good since puncturing his wife Caroline’s aorta. Before he departs, he has a final goodbye with Leo and leaves him a little present: a hand-wrought cage the size of Leo’s head dangling just above him and filled with spiders the size of bagels. There’s no bottom to this cage, meaning the whole thing could just drop onto Leo’s head, spiders and all, if it wasn’t for the twine held taut by Leo’s teeth counteracting the cage’s weight. As his hands and legs are bound, it’s quite the predicament Leo’s been left in.
The contestants of Miss Twin Peaks – including Lana, Lucy, Donna, and Nadine – are being led through choreography by Pinkle as the judges – Norma, Mayor Milford, and Dick Tremayne – are discussing the qualities they’re looking for in a winner. They settle on some typical ideals and split up. The girls get a break, and Lana uses this opportunity to get some persuasive alone time with Dick as her fiancé the Mayor suggested. They go off to “find a prop.” They find something.
Coop is meditating instead of sleeping and its working like gangbusters, he feels great. A quick update to Diane in which he mentions Annie for the first time, in most flattering terms, including the realization that he hasn’t felt this way for anyone since Caroline. A knock on his door ends this conversation, which is the last Coop will have with Diane in season two. A moment of static cassette hiss in her honor. At Coop’s door is Annie, as though by confessing his love for her aloud he somehow conjured her. She’s nervous because the pageant starts in six hours and she hasn’t written a word of her speech. She needs his help, especially as she’s terrified of public speaking. Yet again this leads into how awkward Annie feels being back in the world, and yet again it ends with a passionate embrace and some grade-A smooching. And this time…some implied lovemaking.
Nadine is showing slides of her wrestling exploits to Mike, Ed, Nadine, and Dr. Jacoby. The Doctor has gathered them to talk through the “break up.” Nadine, still convinced she’s a senior cheerleader, is feeling a little guilty for being as happy as she is because she’s worried Ed is equally as sad. Ed tells her this isn’t so, he and Norma are going to get married. She says that’s cool, she and Mike are getting married too, but then she squeezes her intended’s hand so hard she breaks several of his bones.
Briggs is still trying to find his way out of the forest. He’s disoriented, drugged, exhausted, but soldier that he is he presses on. Hawk comes upon him. Briggs asks which way is the castle and Hawk loads him into the car. At the station, Truman tells Coop they checked Briggs out and physically he’s fine, but mentally, emotionally, not so much. Coop smells the Major and detects odiferous traces of haloperidol. Briggs is so zonked on the stuff he doesn’t even recognize his own name. However he does know he’s been in the woods, but other than that he’s no immediate help. Andy comes back to resume staring at the petroglyph. As he does, Coop tells Truman it’s not just about being in the right place to enter The Black Lodge, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Looking at one of the symbols, Andy asks if the 4H club could have anything to do with this. Probably not.
Pete, Andrew and Catherine are trying to get into the metal rectangular cube that is hopefully the last of Eckhardt’s puzzle boxes. In frustration, Andrew shoots it thrice. That does the job. Inside is a key, no doubt to something valuable. Until they figure out where it fits, they’ll store the key in plain sight on a cake tray. Seems Packards don’t even trust each other.
Donna is all dolled up and leaving for the pageant. Her parents want to hear her speech, but she’d rather discuss the truth about Mom and Ben Horne, and if they won’t tell her, then she’ll ask Ben. They don’t tell her. So she leaves, resolved.
Coop catches a break when he finds symbols in a book that match those Andy mistook for indicators of the 4H club. They stand for Jupiter and Saturn, and in this instance represent a conjunction of the two planets, a celestial alignment, which translates to a time. These particular planets when in conjunction can signify an explosive shift in power, both good and bad. Coop checks and the next conjunction is due sometime between January and June. It’s March now. So they know when the Lodge will be open, they just need the where. Briggs interrupts with a reminder to “Protect the Queen,” and “fear and love open the doors.” The first part, of course, is an obtuse reference to Earle’s plan for the pageant winner, and the second is in reference to the doors of the Lodges; we know fear opens The Black Lodge, and now we know love does the same to The White Lodge. Briggs is an obvious conduit of the latter realm and is transferring messages to Coop like the Giant tried to last episode when Annie announced she was entering the pageant. Coop is their Agent now, The White Lodge’s, but the lines of communication aren’t all the way open. Regardless Coop understands, even if he doesn’t know immediately what it all means. Briggs mentions the queen again and it clicks: Earle’s playing chess and in chess the queen is the most important piece, it’s the one you take to get the king, so that’s what Earle wants, a queen, like say the one crowned winner of Miss Twin Peaks, to take to the entrance of The Black Lodge and use her fear to open it. Andy is trying to interrupt but Coop and Truman are so wrapped up in this flood of revelations that they ignore him. He chases after trying to get them to listen, in the process knocking the bonsai off the table, breaking the pot, and revealing the bug. They instantly know who planted it, and realize Earle is way ahead of them. They have to get to The Road House immediately, the pageant has already started.
Donna. Audrey. Shelly. Annie. Lucy. Nadine. Lana. These are the names we know in the pageant. So it stands to reason one of these women will be Earle’s queen. I think we all know what direction this is headed in, if perhaps we don’t know how it’s going to get there. Everyone in town is in the room except for the only ones who know everyone is in danger. The opening dance number ends and the talent portion begins. Lucy is an ace tapper, turns out. Bobby, backstage, sees the Log Lady lurking in the shadows only seconds after he saw her in the crowd. This backstage Log Lady is no Lady, though, she’s Earle in drag, but his log is real enough to knock Bobby out. Coop and Truman arrive but in order to trap Earle they need the pageant to finish. Their plan is to grab the winning girl the second she’s announced and give her around-the-clock protection until Earle can be stopped. Lana’s also a dancer, of a much more exotic sort. There’s not limp noodle in the place. Audrey meanwhile gives an intelligent, impassioned, and well-received speech.
Backstage, Donna comes across Ben and engages him. She wants the truth. He thinks they should all discuss this as a group, them and her parents. She doesn’t. She wants to know what the hell is going on. He starts to talk, but she jumps ahead of his words and assumes he’s her actual father then runs off crying. Ben doesn’t deny it.
Annie’s speech goes well, despite her nerves and because of Coop’s influence and presence. Earle, still in costume, skulks above the stage on the catwalk. The pageant ends and the ballots are being counted, a winner will be announced any moment. In the unknown interim, Lucy gets Andy and Dick together for the revelation of which man she has chosen to be the father of her unborn child, regardless of who is biologically responsible: Andy. Duh. No one’s surprised or heartbroken, Dick included. For the happy (and Twin Peaks’ cutest) couple, though, it’s a new beginning. But Andy can’t celebrate because despite somehow having been in the same room with him for at least half an hour, Andy still hasn’t told Coop whatever it is he noticed about the petroglyph.
At long last it’s time to crown Miss Twin Peaks. No one is surprised when it’s Annie. Coop, however, is scared in his stoic way. Lana’s pissed, as is the Mayor, but it was Dick who swayed his vote Annie’s way, her speech was just too moving. It’s a moment of celebration, and it is a quick one. The lights go out. The music dies. The applause halts, confused. A strobe begins to flash. Uncertain murmurs fill the room then turn to screams when smoke starts billowing from the stage. Panic. Chaos. Coop and Truman trying to navigate it, trying to get to Annie. Nadine gets knocked out by a falling sandbag. Doc leads Annie from the stage but loses her in the smoke. And at long last, Coop sees Earle and recognizes him despite the Log Lady disguise and the demon whiteface he’s reverted to. The two men, former friends and partners now nemeses and rivals, stare at each other, Coop with primal fear and Earle with primal evil. Coop fights through the crowd but Earle uses a remote to detonate another flash of flame and smoke. Earle then choloroforms Annie and drags her away. When the lights come back on and the smoke drifts away and Coop and Harry find each other, Annie and Earle are gone. Truman goes to try and head them off and Andy finally tells Coop what he figured out and what we already knew: the petroglyph is a map of Twin Peaks.
Whew. That’s certainly a set up for a series finale. Oddly enough, neither Lynch nor Frost had a direct hand in this episode. It was written by Barry Pullman, his last of four episodes, and directed by Tim Hunter, his final episode of three. The finale would see the last collaboration of the co-creators as well as second string plotters Harley Peyton and Robert Engels, but despite a lack of major players, this is a taut and suspenseful episode that paints by the numbers the perimeter of the bigger picture to come in the next episode.
Outside of the finale and the episode resolving the Laura Palmer storyline, the final act of “Miss Twin Peaks” is as tense and dread-inducing as the series ever got. Knowing what we do about Earle’s preoccupation with The Black Lodge and his intentions for the pageant winner, not to mention the obvious parallels between Annie and Caroline, we can see shadows of what’s coming from a mile away; it’s the horrific details we can’t discern. I was standing for the last ten minutes of this episode I was so nervous, and I’ve seen it five times before. Kudos to the pacing at which the narrative unravels, there were times it might have felt slightly redundant, Earle realizing things to have Coop realize them only scenes later, but that’s what chess is, one move following another, sometimes applying the same strategy with the same result, and no other episode of the Earle storyline has more mimicked chess than this one. It serves as a microcosm of the whole plot in one compact and powerful episode that unnerves you in ways Laura’s case never did: for one, with Laura we didn’t have the burden of knowing what kind of evil BOB and The Black Lodge were capable of until after their horrors had been enacted, and two, Annie is a purer victim, more chaste and innocent, a former nun, even; Laura was no alter girl. Annie is clean as the driven snow, and her corruption would be most unsavory, not to mention it would utterly annihilate Coop’s soul. But again, that’s Earle’s whole point…
NEXT WEEK: It’s all led up to this. The final episode (of season two) and the cliffhanger to top all cliffhangers.