Coop gets taken hostage and Windom Earle makes a deadly move…
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 20: “CHECKMATE”
Written by Harley Peyton, Directed by Todd Holland
Airdate January 19, 1991
The episode opens with a truly trippy sequence that involves fire, space, and a stone throne in a jungle setting. These images reflect the memories of Major Garland Briggs, who is attempting to recount his time away but he remembers nothing of his disappearance other than returning two days later to the same spot from which he went missing. All he can recall with clarity is the image of a giant owl. Briggs is stirred from his trance when Doc Hayward takes a photograph of a new mark, like a scar, behind his right ear. The mark is three triangles with their points touching, similar to the symbol for radioactive material. Coop and Truman continue to question him, but there isn’t much he can tell them because his work is, as we know, mostly classified. But as the Major thinks about it, this doesn’t matter as much to him now. He seems to be suffering a crisis of conscience. Coop has him start at the beginning. He asks if Coop is familiar with Project Blue Book? Coop is, it’s the Air Force investigations into UFOs. Briggs reveals that though the project was officially disbanded in 1969, there are some who continue the investigations on their own; elsewhere these people look to the stars, but here in Twin Peaks they look below the Earth because they are searching for the White Lodge. No sooner does Briggs mention the place than two military police come in to claim jurisdiction over him. He leaves with them. The sprinklers are leaking again, just as they were the day Leland died.
Elsewhere in the Sheriff’s station, Ernie Niles, at DEA Agent Denise Bryson’s behest, makes a call to set the fake cocaine buy with Jean Renault.
Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne have a secret meeting in reference to Little Nicky’s background. Dick found out that the boy’s records have been sealed and sent back to the orphanage, which means if they’re going to find out the truth about what happened to his parents, they’re going to have to go there and steal them.
Meanwhile, Coop has Lucy checking the personal columns of every single nationally-distributed newspaper for any chess moves or mention of Windom Earle. So far she’s found neither.
At the Double R, Ed gets his coffee refilled by Norma. They’re warming up to each other again after all the literal craziness with Nadine in the wake of her suicide attempt. Ed surreptitiously sets up a secret rendezvous.
Leo’s still a handful for Shelly, especially with Bobby not helping out like he’s supposed to. He won’t feed Leo, he won’t clean the place, and all because he doesn’t think he has to, he’s Ben Horne’s “Golden Boy” now and all this is beneath him. But not beneath Shelly, apparently, so he leaves her to it.
James calls his Uncle Ed to ask a favor: he needs all the money from his savings account sent to him, but he won’t say why. Ed begrudgingly agrees. Evelyn overhears this and enters, in large sunglasses, and asks if James is homesick. Not particularly, he replies. She asks if it was a girl he left town over. In a sense, yes, and then he tells her about Laura and Maddy, both dead despite his efforts. This is why he left, he says, because he had to. So much unfounded angst in that Hurley boy. Evelyn kisses him. He takes off her sunglasses and sees the black eye she’s hiding, then they kiss again. Jeffrey, her husband, is heard leaving. Evelyn says she needs James’ help but runs off before saying what for exactly.
Nadine finds Mike Nelson at the diner and persists in throwing herself at him. Mike very plainly makes his point to her: he’s not interested. Nadine asks him out again anyway, then kisses him right out of his seat. She leaves him be, but not without making an impression.
Norma’s leaving too, to rendezvous with Ed, but Hank stops her on her way out, curious as to her plans. She says she’s running errands, but he knows better.
Truman shows up at the Packard/Martell homestead to see why Josie hasn’t moved into his place like she said she was going to, but she has changed her mind and decided that this is where she’s the safest, and also where he’s the safest if she is. They smooch sadly.
Audrey discovers her father has gone off the deep end. His preoccupation with the Battle of Gettysburg has turned into a living, breathing, mental break wherein he believes he is actually commanding the Confederates in The Civil War. He knows Audrey, knows she is his daughter, but given his unwavering focus on the war and the adoption of a Southern accent, it would seem most of his mind is stuck in 1863. Audrey’s trying to get him on his metaphorical feet again so he can save the family business, but he won’t be shaken from the field of battle. Audrey calls the only person she can think of who might be able to help get through to Ben: Jerry.
Norma shows up at Ed’s house – Nadine’s in school – and professes her undying love for him. She says to hell with their troublesome situations, she only wants to be with him. They begins to kiss but she wants him to respond first. All he says is “later” and keeps up the kissing.
Ernie’s getting wired for the fake drug buy. His mission is to introduce Denise to Jean Renault and walk everyone through the buy then scoot so Truman can swoop in and make the arrest. Coop won’t be able to participate because he’s been suspended from the bureau, but Truman fixes this by deputizing Coop, which pleases the former Special Agent as much as you would expect it to, which is to say, tremendously. Denise shows up, but as Dennis.
At the Dorritt Home for Boys, Andy and Dick are breaking into the office while everyone’s at lunch. They locate Nicholas Needleman’s file, before they can learn anything from it, an adopting couple comes to visit with their future ward. Dick has to think on his feet, which isn’t his strong suit.
Donna drops by Ed’s looking for James. Ed tells her about the money James asked for, and the bar on highway 96 he’s supposed to send it to. Donna offers to take it instead. Once she’s gone Norma slips out, their conversation still unresolved. Hank though has slipped in without being noticed, and starts to beat the crap out of Ed for sleeping with his wife. That’s when Nadine comes home, though, and proceeds to beat the ever-living shit out of Hank.
Ben is talking military strategy with an uninterested Bobby. Ben seems to be confusing Bobby for General Meade of the Union Army. Bobby gets exasperated and scoots. Audrey’s outside waiting for him. She says Jerry is headed home and Jacoby is coming tomorrow. As they walk away, Catherine comes to see Ben. She had come to gloat over his ruination at her hands, but her desire for him proves stronger than her spite.
James reveals to Evelyn that he’s finished fixing her husband’s car. They celebrate with champagne and sweet talk. She asks where he’ll go next. He’s not sure. She doesn’t want him to go anywhere, she wants more time with him. They kiss, and are seen by Evelyn’s brother Malcolm who seems suspiciously happy at this entanglement.
At Dead Dog Farm Ernie, Jean Renault and the RCMP King are waiting for Hank, but they can’t wait anymore. Ernie’s so nervous he shorts out his wire with flop sweat, revealing the sting and forcing Jean and King to take Ernie and Dennis hostage. Coop knows what Jean really wants, though, so trades himself for the other men.
Post-coitus, Evelyn leaves James sleeping. Malcolm is waiting for her in the hall. They kiss in a way that should suggest they aren’t really brother and sister, but this is TWIN PEAKS so it’s tough to say for sure right now.
Back at Dead Dog Farm, the State Police have showed up to lend assistance, but Jean and King are still barricaded inside the house with Coop, who has been beaten and bound. Coop points out that their options are but one: surrender. Jean completely agrees, but adds that the only decision is whether or not to go quietly or in a blaze of vengeful glory after killing Coop. Jean is more than willing to die if it means the death of the Special Agent who turned a simple place complicated, fucking with his business, and setting in motion the death of both his brothers. Coop’s arrival changed Twin Peaks, Jean believes, and so he figures maybe Coop’s departure in a body bag will change it back. Out the window, King sees a waitress bringing them food. That waitress is Denise, but they think she’s “just a girl.” She and Coop take control of the situation, which involves Coop wounding Jean and Hawk finishing the job. Renault dies. Coop thanks Denise for her intervention, but Denise reveals it was all Truman’s plan.
Back at Leo and Shelly’s, the power is flickering on and off. Shelly gets up to investigate, and discovers Leo isn’t in his bed. A weird wind-up clown is instead. Leo isn’t in his chair either. She turns to find him standing, face covered in cake and wearing a party hat. He says her name. She screams.
At the Sheriff’s station, the cause of the town-wide power outage is revealed: Lucy got an anonymous call from someone saying there was a bomb in the woods, then there was an explosion, then the lights went out. There were also a couple of fires at the power station. Coop senses something is beyond normally wrong. He walks through the station and stops in Truman’s office. He calls Truman over to see what he’s discovered. There’s an unidentified dead man tied to Truman’s chair and posed to point at a chess board. This is Windom Earle’s next move, and it’s a doozy.
Fun fact: the dead man in Truman’s chair is played by Craig MacLachlan, Kyle’s brother, who also has small roles in Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me (not as the same character he plays here) and Hotel Room.
This episode is where the slump turns towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Director Todd Holland returns for the second and final time – the first being episode 11, “Laura’s Secret Diary – and like his former episode, this one launches and closes plotlines. The Earle narrative begins to blossom as a character who has only been intimated to be a threat is revealed to be a very real one, and The White Lodge mystery also starts to deepen, but ultimately we’re left with no more information at the end of the episode than the little we already had when the episode began. And on the opposite end of things, the Coop’s suspension/Denise storyline is all but wrapped up, while the surprise return of Leo sets in motion another potentially violent storyline.
This, to me at least, signals the end of the no-man’s-land that exists between the Laura Palmer murder and the Windom Earle mystery, which are the two central plots of Twin Peaks. There are still a couple episodes to go before we’re completely out of the woods, a couple more painfully-silly subplots that need to be wrapped up, but at least now they’re revealing themselves as merely set dressing for what would be – until 2017, that is – the final act.
Between Two Worlds: Perspectives on Twin Peaks
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